6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs lay on the table all papers and reports upon the proposed alteration and extension of the Sydney Customs House?
– The honorable member having given me notice of his intention to ask this question, I now lay the papers on the table.
Report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts on the stationery, printing, and advertising accounts of the Commonwealth Departments laid on the table by Mr. Charlton, and ordered to be printed.
– I ask the Acting Minister of Defence whether he is aware that a number of public officers, who were allowed to enlist, were subsequently called back to their posts, and that no attempt is being made to recoup them for the expense to which they were put by their military service, nor are they being paid the difference between their official salary and the pay of soldiers?
– The matter has not been brought under my notice, but I shall refer the question to the Minister of Defence, and let the House know his answer.
– I ask the Minister of Home Affairs if he will lay on the table a copy of the agreement under1 which Mr. Griffin’s appointment, as Director of the Federal Capital, has been renewed?
– I do so now.
Ordered to be printed.
– I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs if he thinks it of any use to print private members’ notices of motion on the business-paper, seeing that the Ministry will not give private members an opportunity for the discussion of their business?
– Some time ago the House decided to allot to public business the time formerly allowed for the discussion of private business, and no member has asked me to alter that arrangement.
– The arrangement was made when the House was short of time. The present position is different.
– No alteration could be made without the passing of a new resolution on the subject.
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs furnish honorable members with a short interim report on some of the more important undertakings of the Commonwealth, so that wc may know what progress has been made, what expenditure has been incurred, and have other needed information? There are some very big works in progress about which we are quite in the dark.
– I shall look into the matter, and let. the right honorable member know the result.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House what is the value of insulators imported into Australia by his Department during the years 1911 to 1915, and what is the value of the locally-made insulators used by the Department?
– In 1911, £800 worth of our insulators were locally made; in 1912, £421 worth; in 1913, £329 worth; and in 1914, £4,490 worth. Last year we spent £9,359 on locally-made insulators. The amounts expended on imported insulators were as follow: - In 1911, £12,747; in 1912, £11,190 ; in 1913, £17,115; in 1914, £14,444; and in 1915, £5,063. Everything is being done to make Australia independent of insulators manufactured abroad.
– Can the honorable member give the names of the countries from which insulators are being imported ?
– Not at the present time, but I can supply it later.
– The day before yesterday the Leader of the House informed me that he proposed to consult with the Acting Prime Minister respecting the report of a speech made by the Prime Minister in Canada, with a view to correcting the misapprehension that might arise in this country, that Germany approached Australia to secure a separate peace with us. Has the honorable gentleman a statement to make on the subject?
– I showed to the Acting Prime Minister the report with which the honorable member furnished me. So far as I know, Germany has not consulted Australia, nor any of the Dominions, with regard to the making of a separate peace.
– Has Australia consulted Germany ?
– This Government was not in power when the war started. I do not know if honorable members opposite were consulted by Germany; we have not been. The honorable member for Perth brought under my notice a reported statement by Mr. Ryan on the same subject. I presume that what was intended by both the Prime Minister and Mr. Ryan was that if any of the Dominions had been willing to agree to an ignoble peace, they would probably have had the chance to do so; but I do not think that any one dreams that any of the Dominions would have accepted such a chance.
The f ollowing papers were presented : -
Audit Act - London Account Regulation amended - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 70.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 224.
Customs Act - Regulations Amended (provisional) -
Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 222, 259, 204.
Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 28, 36.
Customs House, Sydney: Alterations, &c. - Papers re Recommendation of Public Works Committee, Powers of the Minister of Home Affairs, Estimates of Cost, &c.
Iron Bounty Act - Regulation Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 52.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 77.
Lighthouses Act - Regulation Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 55.
Rifle Associations, &c. - Report on State Rifle Associations, District Rifle Club Unions, and Rifle Clubs, for year ended 30th June, 1915.
– We have been informed that there is a profit made from the coinage of silver. Will the Treasurer take into consideration the question of recalling the old silver coinage, which in many instances is so effaced that people actually refuse to receive it as current coin ?
– I shallbe very glad to take the request of the honorable member into favorable consideration.
– Can the Minister for the Navy tell me whether any trophies have been secured from the Emden for Australia, and, if so, what has become of them ? Some little time ago, the statement was made that several guns taken from the Emden had been exhibited in London. Is it not fitting that representations should be made to the Imperial authorities with a view to having these trophies handed over to the Commonwealth Parliament?
– There are now many trophies in Australia which have been secured from the Emden, and some of them are to be distributed among public bodies, such as the Australian Natives Association and similar organizations. As to the other portion of the question submitted by the honorable member, I think that it is a matter that can be left to the Imperial authorities.
– Is it too late to reconsider the decision of the Government to distribute these relics among various societies, such as the Australian Natives Association?
– I meant “ public institutions.”
– I was about to ask the Minister whether he would reconsider the matter, and distribute these relics amongst public institutions, instead of amongst private organizations ?
– It is now clear that the money spent and contemplated to be spent on the Federal Capital amounts to £1,500,000 or £2,000,000. I ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether he has forgotten entirely the question of building Parliament House there, and whether anything is being done to further the progress of the plans with a view to building?
– I have asked’ for a lot of money, and if 1 get it we propose to systematize matters at Canberra. I have appointed Mr. Oliver, the Sanitary Engineer of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, to furnish a report on the sanitary conditions at the Federal Capital. We propose to start Canberra on a system such as is possessed by the German Army or the Standard Oil Company.
– Will the Minister say why he is dissatisfied with Mr, Hill, the Sanitary Engineer now in the service of the Department of Home Affairs ?
– Things seem to me, as a business man, absolutely demoralized.
– Will the Minister say what steps are being taken to secure plans for the Parliament House at Canberra ?
– Unfortunately, things are so demoralized -
– Since when?
– Since the Minister came into office.
– Unfortunately, things are so demoralized, and became so demoralized when there was no Minister running the concern, that it is impossible to talk about plans or anything else until we can put matters on some business basis. I asked the Public
Works Committee to have the avenues prepared, so that we could; commence grading them, but the Committee found that they had no power to act, as the matter had not been submitted to them by Parliament. It has now to be submitted to the Committee through Parliament. We are in a blind alley.
– It is the Minister who is in a blind alley.
– And it was the honorable member for Hindmarsh who put us there.
– Who is demoralized -the Sanitary Engineer, Mr. Hill, or the Minister? “
– Order !
– In view of the trouble that has occurred in connexion with soldiers travelling on trains, will the Government give favorable consideration to the view of a great number of people in this country, that soldiers in uniform should be permitted to travel free on trains or trams?
– The Commonwealth Government do not yet control any railways. I presume the free carriage of soldiers is a matter for the Railway Departments of the States; but, if the honorable member desires it to be a charge against the Defence Department, if he submits a question to the Minister of Defence, no doubt the Department will furnish him with a reply.
– Can the Acting Leader of the House say when honorable members are likely to be favoured with the War Pensions Bill and the Bill dealing with the fund for the repatriation of soldiers, in order that we may be able to look into them ?
– The War Pensions Bill will be circulated next week. The other Bill has been introduced in ‘ the Senate, and was circulated this morning.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Deputy Governor-General recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Deputy Governor-General, recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Deputy Governor-General recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Training of Officers - Pensions
– Recruits desiring commissions are required to first apply to their Commanding Officer for permission to enter the Non-commissioned Officers’ School. Having passed through that school, they again apply for permission to enter the School for Officers. In the case of returned soldiers the Commanding Officer is not available, and instructions have been given by the Minister that returned non-commissioned officers are to be given facilities for entering the Officers’ School. Will the Minister of Defence take into consideration the fairness of granting similar facilities to returned soldiers to enter the Non-commissioned Officers’ School?
– I shall refer the question to the Minister of Defence, and give the honorable member an answer next week.
– In view of the many statements made regarding the inadequacy of the pension paid to soldiers who have returned from the front partially incapacitated, do the Government intend to make more liberal provision for such soldiers in future?
– A more liberal provision for the totally incapacitated soldiers will enable more generous provision to be made for those who are partially incapacitated.
– In view of the certainty that a great portion of the wheat stacked in the open at railway stations and sidings must lie there during the winter months, will the Government ask the Wheat Board to see that such stacks are not only properly covered,, but adequately drained, so that damage by rain and water may be reduced to a minimum ?
– The Government are alive to the necessity for having the wheat properly safeguarded. I understand, however, that the wheat is in the hands of the agents, and that the responsibility is theirs. But in view of reports which have reached the Government from members of this House, that some of the wheat is already sprouting in the bags, the Government are arranging for a thorough inspection in order to see that the wheat is properly protected.
– Is it not one of the terms of the wheat agreement with the agents that the responsibility for weight and marketing condition of all wheat received is theirs, and that such responsibility is supported in each case by a guarantee of several thousand pounds?
– I understand that the agents are responsible for keeping the wheat in good order and condition. The Government do not think, however, that there will be any harm in having an independent inspection of the wheat in order to see that the agents are carrying, out their portion of the contract. This inspection will not increase the liability of the Government.
– In the event of the wheat becoming damaged through inadequate protection on the railways, who will be responsible?
– If that question is put on the notice-paper, I will obtain an answer from the Crown Law authorities.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Will he lay upon the table of the House copies of all applications by the Anglican ChaplainGeneral for the appointment of additional chaplains for transports, and of any correspondence in connexion therewith?
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The information is being prepared, and will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Will he give this House an assurance that the work at the Arsenal and Arms Factory at Canberra will be vigorously proceeded with ?
– The Minister of Defence advises me that when parliamentary authority has been obtained for the expenditure work will be proceeded with vigorously.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Has any inquiry been made into the practicability and cost of making suitable additions to the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow with a view to increasing the output of urgentlyneeded war materiel, as promised by the Minister, in answer to a question asked on 11th November last; if so, what was the .result of the inquiry, and lias anything been done to increase the output of the fact<- y?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The necessary extensions to buildings at Lithgow Small Arms Factory asked for by the Defence Department to accommodate the additional machinery as it arrives have been practically completed. It is understood that the question whether further buildings are required is under consideration
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Will the Government grant, the separation allowance to the widows of soldiers killed during the war who sailed from Australia prior to 1st May, 1915?
– It is not considered desirable to make this further retrospective. It may be pointed out that the War Pensions Amending Bill which is being introduced makes generous provision in such cases.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What are the names of the Australian ships that, since the outbreak of war, have been removed from the Australian shipping register, and what has become of such ships ?
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished at the earliest possible moment.
asked the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
If it is a fact that any Bill passed by the National Parliament for compulsory conscription for service in the Military or Naval Forces must receive the Royal assent before it would have any legal effect beyond the territorial waters of Australia?
– The assent as ordinarily given by the Governor-General in the King’s name would be fully effective for the purpose.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Mr. RICHARDFOSTER (for Dr.
Carty Salmon) asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– This information will take some time to prepare, and will be made available when ready. It is suggested that when returns of this description are desired, a motion for the return should be submitted.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
As steel helmets have been the means of reducing the mortality rate in the trenches to a considerable extent, will the Minister of Defence at once consider the desirability of supplying all our troops with this very necessary equipment?
– Action has already been taken in this direction.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 10th May, vide page 7796), on motion by Mr. Higgs -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1, the Parliament, namely, “ The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
– In the few remarks I have to make I should first like to say a word about a very delicate matter, relating to the attitude of members on both sides of the House towards the very important question of defence. I am alluding for the moment to a number of interjections made from the other side last evening, when I was addressing myself to the matter of compulsory training - to taunts that were thrown about the chamber, not only by honorable members behind the Government, but by the Minister himself, to the effect that, in making the remarks I did, I was in some way acting in a disloyal way to the conference held on the previous evening. I have felt, and I still feel and believe, that the Government would do well to take all sections of the House into its confidence more than it has done heretofore in the prosecution of the war. If, however, the result is that when honorable members come into the House they are to be taunted with want of bona fides, of good faith, it will simply mean that we must keep out of these secret conferences. We cannot pretend to have our rights of free speech if the discussion of this great question, above all others, is interfered with in the slightest degree because of any supposed fealty we may owe to the Government regarding matters of the kind. I believe there is no man in the House who would dream of so aspersing his own honour as to make use of any information gained at gatherings of the kind for any purpose not bond fide. Last night I felt keenly these imputations of dishonour - for they amounted to nothing more or less - which were bandied about the chamber; and I hope sincerely we shall hear no more of them. Ever since the outbreak of this war I have striven in a very difficult position to put away party considerations in all matters affecting the defence of Australia; and I am sure that I can say the same for my colleagues on this side. This party has not known itself as a party in connexion with any matters concerning the defence of Australia and the Empire, and the prosecution of the war.
But I think I am entitled to go further and to ask that this attitude be reciprocated on the other side of the chamber. Surely if there is to be an understanding of this kind - if all parties are agreed as to the vital necessity of sinking and subordinating party considerations entirely - this ideal must be acted up to by members of both sides. Not only must it, above all, be acted up to by members of the Government, in connexion with their legislative proposals, but as far as possible, the spirit of the understanding, and the spirit of the supreme duty and obligations resting on us, should be honored by them in their administrative capacity also. I am moved to make these remarks for the simple reason that, during the recess which has just ended, and which I understand will be continued after perhaps next week, I have observed very little trace of this non-party attitude and conduct in the administrative affairs of the Government. Their party organizations have been in full blast without let or hindrance, without modification of any kind, and without being in the slightest susceptible to the terribly crucial days through which we are passing. Their labour conferences have gone on as usual, while, in contradistinction to that, the organizations of the party on this side have not so proceeded. On the contrary, we have taken steps to prevent, in a responsible way, the discussion of any political projects.
– Does that apply to all the States ?
– It applies to most of them.
– It does not apply to Victoria.
– It undoubtedly applies to Victoria. I am sorry to provoke these interjections; but it is necessary to say what I am saying. Reference has been made to Queensland: What have we perceived there since the advent to power of the Ryan Government? A whole series of proposals for the carrying out of a party programme pure and simple have found their way to the statute-book. The most extraordinary things have been going on in Queensland, as if there were no war in existence. Then, only the other day, the PostmasterGeneral was summoned to a Labour Conference in Sydney to hear an indictment of his administration by one of his officers. He replied to that indictment, and after his explanation a vote of censure was passed on his administration.
– He was not summoned; he went as a visitor.
– He received strange treatment for a visitor.
– It is incorrect to say that I was summoned. I have been attending the conference for thirty-five years.
– It is regrettable that the honorable gentleman permitted one of his officers to criticise him. and his administration in this conference. I do not wish to bandy words with honorable members opposite.
– The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition would disturb the placidity of a saint.
-If what we heard yesterday from the Treasurer was an exhibition of saintliness, I hope that it will not be repeated. The PostmasterGeneral degraded himself and his office in. permitting himself to be subjected to censure by the servants of his own Department.
– He believes in free speech.
– I believe in free speech, but I also believe in a Minister of the Crown preserving his selfrespect, and respecting the dignity of the high office that he holds.
During the adjournment there has been a forwarding of Socialistic enterprises of all kinds. Strikes have multiplied on every hand. There have been strikes in munition Factories and in all the industries over which this Government has control. Have all the strikes in the Naval Department been settled yet?
– If the strikes have been settled, I hope that the Brisbane, which it was decided to build over six years ago - it being that length of time since her sister ships were ordered - will soon be finished. There can be no possibility of finishing the vessel if strikes are to continue. I do not blame the Minister for the Navy altogether for these strikes, but I blame the morale of the whole Administration which permits them. Socialistic enterprises are springing up like mushrooms, and money is being spent on them which will be needed for the prosecution of the war. Every penny we can spare, and every effort we can make, should be used to the prosecution of the war to the bitter end.
– A Chamber of Commerce is asking for more Socialistic enterprise - the establishment of a Commonwealth line of steam-ships between Tasmania and the mainland.
– I am not speaking for anybody outside; but, with a due sense of my responsibility to the country, I urge that speculative effort should be put aside until the war is over, and that every ounce of our strength should be applied to secure the speedy ending of it. Notwithstanding the existence of State agencies for the fixing of prices, tlie Commonwealth Government has established a Board of its own. I have yet to know what good that will do. It has done no good so far.
– It has put up prices.
– Yes. The moment the Government fixed the price of flour the millers brought it down below that price. The Board fixed the price of flour at £11. 8s. 6d., and next week the millers, of their own accord, reduced the price by 6s.
– That is not quite correct. The Board has not yet dealt with wheat.
– I have taken my figures from Mr. Hagelthorn, who ought to know something about these matters. How far are these Socialistic enterprises to go? It is now proposed to empower the Board to deal with the price of wearing apparel, and certain food products in addition to wheat, flour, and bread. The purpose of the Government is clearly not to control the staple production of the country for the better prosecution of the war, but to extend their Socialistic interference with private concerns for their own party ends.
– For the good of the community.
– Of course; but principally for the good of the party. There are many other considerations which should subject the Ministry to criticism, but I desire to avoid such criticism as much as I can, though I must protest as strongly as possible against the attempt to use the war sentiment for party ends. That is wrong, and should not be tolerated. I hope that, during the recess that we are about to enter, speculative Socialistic projects will not be multiplied, and that the Government will keep faith with the people and the Parliament, directing all their efforts towards the successful prosecution of the war.
We are now being asked to discuss the Budget after the money has been spent, and our criticism must therefore be shorn of much of its potency and usefulness. Why the Budget has been introduced at the end of the financial year I do not know, and the Treasurer has given us no reason.
– There are yet seven weeks of the current financial year to go.
– We are within seven weeks of the ending of the financial year, and have only just had the Estimates presented to us. Next year’s Estimates should, by this time, be well in hand, and I hope that we shall not have to wait for them until the end of the next financial year. In Great Britain, notwithstanding the colossal obligations of the country, which tower into thousands of millions of pounds, a complete national balance-sheet was presented to the House of Commons within three months of the close of the year. It is impossible for us to exercise control over the financial administration of the Government in the circumstances in which we are placed. The Treasurer should tell us why it has taken him twelve months to prepare the Estimates for the current financial year, and why they are submitted when the money has all been spent.
– Under an agreement arrived at with the right honorable member, Parliament has been in recess for five months.
– Parliament should not be in recess at any disadvantage to the conduct of the business of the country. Why were not the Estimates ready before we rose last November?
– I had been in office only a month when the House rose.
– It is useless to blame the late Treasurer, who is now at the other end of the world, and can no longer be disturbed in his dreams by anything that may occur here. It is a serious thing for Parliament to lose control of the financial administration of the Government, and for the appropriations for the year to be spent without the exercise of Parliamentry control. In these circumstances we may expect no economy ; we may expect what we find in the Estimates - swollen extravagance continuing through the war itself, with no prospect of any alleviation.
Another matter which hampers us in the consideration of the country’s finances is the way in which they have been mixed up in the Budget. I defy any one to obtain a clear and intelligent conception of the accounts as they are presented in the Budget - loan and war moneys are all mixed up with the ordinary civil administration. Nearly two years ago, the right honorable member for Swan, the ex-Treasurer, and I urged the Government to separate these accounts - to do so is only a matter of bookkeeping; I see no insuperable difficulties in the way of doing it - and twice or thrice the late Treasurer promised that it should be done, yet apparently no attempt has been made to separate the extraordinary and abnormal expenditure caused by the war from that which relates to the ordinary normal administration of the Public Service. How can we, from a perusal of the Budget, obtain any intelligent or clear idea of what our ordinary services are costing us, and of whether the money is being spent efficiently or otherwise? I should like to know from the present Treasurer whether there is any serious attempt being made in his office to separate these accounts, so that we may know the expenditure which is necessary for the wai-, and that which is necessary for the ordinary conduct of the civil offices of the Government. It should be done at the earliest possible moment. Although in the House of Commons the Budget is a whole Budget, although aggregate figures are dealt with, a line of distinction is drawn very clearly between that expenditure which is abnormal and caused by the war, and that which relates to the ordinary Civil Service of the country. Over there, a Commission has been appointed to investigate the whole cost of government, and it has already succeeded in saving a large number of millions of expenditure on the ordinary detailed administration of the Government. But, so far as we can see, nothing of the kind is taking place here. The one outstanding feature of our Budget is the fact that the Estimates are being swollen, and unnecessarily so, in regard to the ordinary administration of the Government. Expenditure is increasing. The man power of the country is decreasing, and the productive power of the country is not increasing, but the cost of government is going up, not merely in the Federal sphere alone, but also in all the State spheres. The order of the day is, “ up with the expenditure.” I venture to say there is a very serious aspect of affairs looming up even before the war is over if it lasts very much longer. We cannot continue taxing, spending, and squandering, as we are doing in all these spheres of government in Australia.
– I do not wish to be rude, but I believe that the right honorable gentleman has made that remark on every occasion every year he has been in Opposition.
– And I believe that I have heard the honorable member making this equally inane and silly reply. The nation is living on its capital. We are getting poorer so far as our resources are concerned, and, therefore, so far as our staying power is concerned as it relates to the’ prosecution of the war.
– That is not true of the Old Country, if it be true of Australia.
– It is true of the Old Country. Every million pounds spent in the prosecution of war is a waste of a country’s resources - an elementary fact which, I should think, should not be questioned by any honorable member, certainly not by the old Solon, my respected friend, the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– That is not the impression of your remark that the public will get.
– The impression that I wish the public to get of what I am saying is that it is time a halt was called in the upward tendency of our ordinary civil expenditure throughout the length and breadth of Australia, both Federal and State.
– The resources of Australia are not weaker, nor are they crippled because of the war.
– Our resources are made weaker by every tax imposed, by every expenditure of loan money raised in the country; in fact, by every expenditure which takes money out of the ordinary channels of productive enterprise and applies it to the prosecution of the war. Every expenditure of that kind must leave us weaker.
– What about surplus wealth? Is surplus wealth capital?
– The very small amount of surplus wealth that I have - and it is not very much - I regard as capital. I am quite unable in my humble sphere to distinguish between the two so far as they relate to prosperity and the staying power of the country.
I shall not analyze the Estimates. I am unable to do so. They are too jumbled up. It is not the first time, as the Treasurer has remarked, that I have protested against the manner in which Estimates are prepared, and I shall feel it my duty to keep on protesting until they are prepared in such a way that any ordinary intelligent man may pick them up and see exactly what is being done in the various Departments of government. That is a requirement which should be an elementary one in a House which is charged with the responsibility of exercising some control and criticism in regard to the expenditure of the country.
One or two things stand out in the financial statement. The Treasurer tells us that we have a surplus over last year through the Customs of £1,322,000, that the Post Office is booming, that there are increases of £3,706,000 from other sources, and that, altogether, this year there are increases amounting to £5,434,000; but, notwithstanding these increases of revenue, the Treasurer shows a surplus at the end of the year of only a little over £3,250,000. I should like to say as to the surplus that it is the outcome of means such as have been adopted by the party in power for the production of many surpluses in the years in which they have controlled the Treasury. There has hardly been a year during my friends’ occupancy of the Treasury when they have not imposed extra taxation. If we take money by taxation out of the pockets of the people, there is no statesmanship in having a surplus; there is no management about it. If we simply pass a Statute, and take so many millions out of the pockets of the people willy-nilly, and at the end of the year we say There is a surplus in the revenue account of so much,” it indicates a boom, in taxation, which has always been the characteristic of my friends in the Labour party during their occupancy of office. The taxes which were imposed last year were supposed to have some relation to the war. An income tax was imposed to draw a revenue of about £3,000,000. Probate duties were imposed, and the land tax was increased. The extra taxation was to give about £4,000,000 additional revenue ; but the result of it all has been that some of the money which was intended for the war has had to be pressed into the ordinary services of the Government, and is, therefore, not available to its full extent for the purpose of our war obligations. That is the serious part of this business. To have a surplus in our revenue account is all very well if we achieve it by putting war taxes into our revenue. But that is what comes of mixing up the accounts. The Treasurer should have kept the accounts separate, and definitely allocated the whole of the additional taxation for war purposes, as has been done in the Old Country, where not a penny of it has gone into ordinary administrative obligations, but it has all been earmarked, and specially hypothecated for the purpose of paying for the war. Here everything has been mixed up, and that is how the surplus from revenue comes to exist. War taxes are imposed, and then we say at the end of the year that there is a surplus on revenue account of over £3,000,000, which we propose to apply to the purposes of the war. The taxation itself was war taxation, and should not have gone into revenue account in any shape or form. It should have been kept distinct and separate from the ordinary receipts and ordinary expenditure of the Government.
The Treasurer tells us that he has a surplus in his accounts of about £17,000,000 on account of war loans and other things ; but that it is only a paper surplus. That is to say, a good deal of it is hypothecated. As far as I recollect, he says that £4,500,000 is owing to the soldiers as deferred payment, and that there are other obligations to the Imperial Government. He says that the indebtedness to the Imperial Government for maintenance and equipment of our soldiers abroad is an unknown item. Has he no rough idea of what it amounts to?
– I have asked repeatedly for some information, but can get no idea of it.
– It seems to me there is a breakdown in financial control somewhere. It must be in the Defence Department.
– It is not here.
– The Imperial Government will not give us the information
– I wonder why we cannot get that information.
Why will not the Imperial Government supply us with information which they, give constantly to their own Parliament? I see no difficulty whatever in getting the information. I am not asking for a balance-sheet to the last penny or to the last sixpence, or even to the last million pounds. The Treasurer knows nothing, and can get no information concerning this item, which amounts1 to millions of pounds, but the time must come when that account will be rendered. I do not see why the Treasurer should not ask for it to be rendered periodically. The military authorities spend so much per quarter, and why should they not be asked to tell the Treasurer at the end of the quarter what the expenditure roughly has been?
– It may not be a liability at all.
– It is a definite liability, because we have undertaken to pay the whole sum. Yet the Treasurer seems unable to get information as to what the liability is. Have any accounts been rendered since the end of the last financial year ?
– None on this account. I am unable to get the information. The Imperial Government has plenty of trouble of its own without my worrying them in this matter. I have asked for the information and cannot get it.
– May I respectfully say that I do not think that is a sufficient answer.
– I am prepared to show the honorable member the answer of the Imperial Government, and if he still insists I will send his speech to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury.
– I am not doubting the Treasurer’s word.
– But you continue, to flagellate me.
– I am not flagellating the honorable member - that is absurd. I am making a criticism which I think is justified with th© one desire of helping to elucidate the finances of the country. I do not understand the system which enables the Treasurer to go through the whole year without knowing anything of the nature or extent of his obligations abroad. I cannot help thinking that some sort of account could be obtained if the Treasurer asked for it in the proper quarters. The result is that, although the Treasurer has £13,000,000 in hand, the Commonwealth may actually be in debt so far as its loan obligations are concerned. Of that £13,000,000, one-third is already hypothecated for the deferred pay of the soldiers, and, according to the Treasurer, there are outstanding twelve months’ obligations on account of the maintenance and equipment of soldiers abroad. Therefore, these surpluses are simply on paper, and it appears as if, notwithstanding all the loans which have been raised and all the extra taxation imposed, we are yet far from balancing our accounts at the end of the year.
In the forefront of the Treasurer’s statement appears this passage -
I would utter a warning to Australians who are spending everything they earn. It would be in the nature of mockery to advise those householders whose every penny is required to maintain their families to practice thrift and economy; but there are thousands of persons who can save money now spent on luxuries, excessive amusements, and comforts which could partially, at least, be quite easily done without.
Those are excellent sentiments. May I suggest to the Treasurer that people outside, after reading that paragraph, might readily answer him by saying - “ Inasmuch as you morally require us to be economical in our expenditure, will you please set us an example so far as the disbursement of the moneys in your charge is concerned.” That would be a fair attitude for the public to adopt. The question arises as to whether we are administering our affairs economically, whether we are doing the best we can with the people’s money, and getting 20s. value for every £1 we pay out? Are we doing the fair thing for those who toil daily for the money which the Commonwealth uses in its several ways ? That is a question of moment, and it is provoked by this timely, wise, and excellentwarning from the lips of the Treasurer. If economy is admirable for the man outside the House, it is equally admirable for the man inside who is charged with the duty not only of spending the people’s money, but also of setting an example to them.
– Give us some concrete examples of extravagance.
– I have one ready to- hand in the digest issued from the Home Affairs Department every two months. That publication is largely a waste of money, particularly in these days when paper is so dear, and all costs are increasing. Economy might commence in connexion with this digest. Is it necessary for the Minister to circulate this information throughout Australia, and dip his hand into the public Treasury for the purpose?
– You complain if we do not give you information, andthen you complain when we do give it.
– I do not want information of this kind at the public expense. Here is a heading, “ Authors of the Bible,” and then follows this paragraph
With the exception of two or three of Paul’s epistles, Romans, Galatians, and I. and II. Corinthians, the Bible, Old Testament and New, is of unknown authorship.
It has been stated that in years gone by the Minister of Home Affairs was the bishop of some way-back church in America, and in this publication he is airing, at the public expense, his theological knowledge. The paragraph continues -
The names attached to the books of Scripture signify nothing as to their authorship. Solomon’s Song, for instance, dated from about 350b.c., and the book of Daniel, from about 167b.c., centuries after Solomon and Daniel were dead.
There we have a fine conclusive theological argument which this Government, whilst prescribing economy for everybody outside, is distributing throughout the country at the public expense. We are told other things in this famous digest -
Byfar the greater portion of the earth’s land surface is covered with growing vegetation.
A most profound scientific truth ! The honorable member for Darwin has found out many things in his peregrinations.
As the globe rotates one half is always exposed to sunlight and the other half always immersed in darkness.
I am amazed at this laughter. This digest is supposed to be circulated for the information of honorable members, yet they do not appear to have read it. Could we have better proof that the publication is a waste of money? Another interesting item -
If a magnetic needle is placed upon a pivot so as to oscillate freely, it takes up a position which is approximately north and south.
Yet another piece of information, which I am sure has nothing to do with the administration of the Home Affairs Department -
Napoleon was born on the 15th August, 1769, in Ajaccio, and was the son of Charles Marie de Bonaparte and Letitia Ramolina Bonaparte. He was one of thirteen children. The Bonaparte family had an ancient title of nobility.
Now I understand why that information is published. That great Democrat, the honorable member for Darwin, has been rummaging amongst the archives of the nobility to discover Napoleon’s ancient lineage. Those are only specimens of the contents of the digest. May I suggest to the Minister that before he sets up as a theologian he should first of all qualify as a statesman, and he might at least leave the authorship of the Bible to be determined at the expense and in the time of theologians outside Parliament.
– They are the opinions of a professor.
– This publication is being carried to an absurd extreme. There are some things in the digest which are valuable. But I submit there is no need to issue this huge volume in war days, when every penny we can save is needed for quite other and better purposes.
– Do not all the Departments issue annual statements which nobody reads, while we issue four of these volumes which everybody reads ?
– I regret to say that members of this House have been expressing the greatest amusement and surprise at things in this volume that they have not read.
– I believe that.
– If my honorable friend believes that, why waste public money in circulating stuff which nobody reads? There is another piece of information circulated at the public expense; and this brings to view a fine conception of Ministers’ responsibility as a Government with regard to public works. We have a Public Works Committee to investigate all projects estimated to cost over £25,000; and yet in this volume we are told by the Minister of Home Affairs in a letter written to “ Dear Mr.Riley “ -
Cabinet has approved of the selecting of a site for an arsenal being referred to your Committee for report after investigation of the site proposed by the Arsenal Commission and any other site within the Federal Territory.
What right has the Minister, as a Minister, or the Cabinet as a Cabinet, to submit this work directly to the Public Works Committee without the sanction and approval of this House?
– Why not?
– Because there is a Statute which says that you must not. That Statute requires the plans and specifications of every projected work of over £25,000 to be referred to the Committee by this House, and not by the Cabinet or Ministers.
– With certain exceptions.
– These are not exceptions.
– There are defence works.
– There are other items which might be referred to if honorable members desired. We find, for instance, £40,000 in these Estimates for a Small Arms Factory at Canberra.
– The amount shown is £20,000.
– It was announced at £40,000 - has it been cut down by half ?
– Possibly to keep it under £25,000.
– I see. Is that another dodge to evade the Public Works Committee? And since there has been some criticism the Government have done something more; they have issued a proclamation making this work a war measure. Why? Not because the work is of an urgent character, but because the Government do not desire an investigation by this House and by the Public Works Committee.
– The work cannot possibly affect the war.
– Quite so. There will be plenty of time in which to build arsenals, and meanwhile we require the money for other purposes of more immediate moment. There is already a Small Arms Factory in Lithgow, the plant of which could have been multiplied two or three times over by the expenditure of a little money. Had there been the slightest driving power, the plant at the existing Factory could have been duplicated and in working order by now, producing all the rifles we require for the equipment of our men. As a fact, in consequence of this dilatoriness, we are sending our men away now only partially armed, relying on the old Mother Land to supply the balance of equipment. It is a piece of extravagance to be experimenting in this way with new projects when money is so urgently needed in other directions.
I do not wish to deal so much with items just now, because I am afraid that if we begin with these we may miss the great objective of the principle of economy and efficiency. This matter is pertinently dealt with in Blackwood, and a proper attitude indicated. The writer, speaking of some extravagance he was exposing at Home, says -
It is as if a spendthrift, who has lost £100,000 on the turf, should deny himself an egg at breakfast time. The spendthrift glows for the moment with an unearned satisfaction. He has not brought himself one inch nearer to solvency.
So, I say, if we keep on delving into small items here and there we may miss the great objective which is, in a time of war, to overhaul our whole establishment from top to bottom, and, as far as possible, put it on an economical and efficient basis. I speak more freely since taxation is towering up in all the States, as well as in the Commonwealth. Australia is one in war time, but, unfortunately, just now its finances are spread and are being manipulated for other than war purposes. Under cover of the war, taxation has been piled on the backs of the people, not for the war, as they are told, but for quite other purposes, many of these having party propaganda as their object. I protest against this swollen extravagance in war days, when we need all our money for the one supreme purpose.
That brings me to some criticism regarding my humble self. In reference to the lending of money to the States, the Treasurer has made a statement here with which I cordially agree, namely, that in time of war we ought not to borrow for war purposes from the Mother Country. I have contended very strongly since the war broke out that we ought never to have gone near the Mother Country for a penny for war purposes. Considering the Old Country’s towering obligations, amounting to £5,000,000 per day, I think Australia could very well have refrained from adding to that burden. We are a rich and not a small community, of 5,000,000 people, who could, I submit, meet their own war obligations without troubling the Motherland. I welcome the statement of the Treasurer that he proposes, as far as he is concerned, to apply for no more loan moneys from the Motherland, but to rely on the undoubted resources of Australia. While he makes that statement, however, he also informs us that he is applying to the Mother Country for money, and for what? He will not apply to the Mother Country for war money, but he is applying to her for money to lend to the States for their public works enterprises. Not only should we finance our own share of the war, but we ought to finance Australia for our own requirements from our own internal resources. The Treasurer has made an arrangement with the Premiers, but in regard to this we never had any statement until the present occasion. I know that in war time a Treasurer is justified in doing many things that would be unconstitutional and irregular at other times, but I do not know that there is any obligation on him to make arrangements ° with the States, involving millions of money, without consulting this House. There is, I submit, time to consult this House, even though we are at war, and have other obligations. This arrangement has been made, and it represents £7,500,000 per annum to five of the States “ and to be continued to the end of the war, and, I think, for a year or six months after. In my judgment, if the Treasurer is going to lend money to the States and be their banker, he has a perfect right, as a banker, to know in war time the assets on which the money is to be expended. That seems to me only fair, and I have before said here that in war time, at least, the States ought not to incur these obligations of their own except in consultation with the Federal Treasurer. There ought to be consultation and combination throughout the length and breadth of Australia as to the expenditure of Australian moneys, which, in the mass, are always chargeable for the supreme object we have in hand. However, the Treasurer has made this arrangement, and in pursuance of it he has made an advance to the States of £1,500,000. In defence of his action the honorable gentleman, in a note of challenge, said that the States must have the money for these purposes. When we look at the list we find that in South Australia it is required for school-houses, while in Queensland it is to be lent to local bodies for water and sewerage works. Has the Treasurer satisfied himself that these are urgent matters? I lay it down as a fundamental principle of war finance that what can be left over and done without until the war is finished ought to be left over, so that we may see how our finances come out. In Tasmania the money is to be lent to local bodies for works. What sort of works? I believe that in Tasmania this means road-making and such like. In Western Australia the money is required for abattoirs, cool storage, advances to settlers, and the development of the gold-fields. Will any one say that these projects are so overwhelmingly important and urgent that the Treasurer should not even consult Parliament before making the advances? Have these matters become so urgent all at once that he has not time to consult Parliament before giving away money by the million ?
– Are the States borrowing on their own account at the same time?
– Of course, every one of them.
What is the reason given by the Treasurer for this urgency ? He says that if the States are not advanced these moneys we shall have an army of unemployed, and be obliged 1o give them charitable relief. I do not believe any such nonsense, nor do I think the Treasurer would believe it if he were to sit down and calmly think over the whole situation. We have the best harvest we ever had, and a quarter of a million men have been lost to civil employment, thereby relieving the labour market. Further, we are disbursing public moneys largely in employment throughout Australia, under combined State and Federal control, not far short of £130,000,000. With £130,000,000 of ordinary governmental expenditure, and a quarter of a million less men to find work for, the Treasurer tells us that unless he, without authority and on the urgent representation of the States, lends these millions of money men will go out of employment, and will become objects of charitable relief. What a reflection on the general condition of the country after years of Labour administration ? But, happily, it is not so. Although the Treasurer speaks about men wanting charitable relief and employment, the president of the Conference of Shires in New South Wales stated, in the course of his annual address, reported in yesterday’s newspapers, that the shires cannot get men to do their work. To-day few men who are fit and healthy and willing to work need want a job, even if the State Treasurer were spending much less than he is spending. I ask the Treasurer, with all the earnestness at my command, to do two things - to see that economy is practised in all the civil department’s of government, and. to separate our accounts, so that healthy public criticism may be brought to bear on them, with a view to helping him to shear them down to reasonable proportions, and thus relieve the country as far as possible of the extravagance which it now has to bear, so that the savings may be available for war reserves, to secure the success of our arms in the field.
– I exceedingly regret the opening remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. My interpretation of the information given to us in secrecy by the Government differs entirely from his. It is not my intention to refer in any way to what took place at the secret meeting of the two Chambers.
– The honorable member has no right to do so.
– No ; and no one has a right to suggest by innuendo what took place. I fully believe, after hearing what was told to us, that Australia is doing all that is expected of her by the Mother Country and by our own people. Certain gentlemen opposite have made public statements which they regret exceedingly, and the Leader of the Opposition, in his desire to cover up a retreat, is making suggestions to-day that he should not make. Australia has done wonders. The right honorable member, at the beginning of the war, proposed to send away only 20,000 men, but the present Government have already sent away nearly 200,000. I have yet to learn that our reinforcements have not been sent regularly; that the men who have been required to fill the gaps have not been ready when wanted, and that notwithstanding the” exceptional difficulties of transport over some 13,000 miles of sea. It ill becomes the Leader of the Opposition, or any one else, to suggest, for political purposes, that there is dissension in Australia, and that we are not all desirous of bringing the war to an end as soon as possible. If there were any chance of the proper number of men not coming forward to fill the ranks, we should all rise to the occasion. Every day men march past on their way to the front who will be a credit to the country, as those who have returned have proved themselves to be.
Still, for political purposes, gentlemen who ought to know better make statements about what we are doing which may be misinterpreted on the other side of the world. I wish to give a denial to those statements, and to say that Australia is doing as well to-day as ever she did, and is still prepared to contribute the last man and the last shilling. The Leader of the Opposition would have it believed that the Government is not doing its utmost. Has he made any non-party suggestion which could be adopted? Not one. Has he shown any defects in our equipment or transport? No. During the debate I have seen <n this chamber the finest piece of acting I have ever seen. Is it the hope of honorable gentlemen opposite that this terrible war may go on until the next election, so that the Labour party must go to the country tied, and unable to acquaint the people with the true facts?
– I ask that the honorable member be made to withdraw that abominable suggestion, and to apologize for having used it. He ought to be kicked out of the chamber for using it.
– I readily withdraw the statement complained of, upon which a wrong interpretation has been put, and I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will withdraw the statement, which was unworthy of a gentleman, that I should be kicked out of the chamber.
– I withdraw my statement.
-In what I said I merely asked a question, and surely I am entitled to do that. I listened to the right honorable member’s speech more in sorrow than in anger, because he could not rise above party politics to the consideration of the interests of the nation at a time when it is struggling for its very existence. The object of Australia and of the Empire is to maintain our liberties, and that can be done only by winning the war. We can win the war only if our people are of one mind ; and when a section abuses the people at large, and charges them with not doingtheir best, unanimity is not possible. Honorable members on this side are well represented at the front. I have a brotherthere who left behind a wife and three children to go, and were I not forty-seven’ years of age, I should be there myself. The other day I heard of a Labour League; with a membership of forty, of whom twenty-eight members have gone to the front, all Labour supporters and workers. Yet we are to be abused because the right honorable member desires conscription ! I have nothing to say about conscription at the present time. There- is no need to talk about it now, because Australia is doing her utmost, and her efforts are appreciated by the Mother Country and by the. Allies. When our history comes to be written, it will be shown that we did remarkably well, and that this Government rose to the occasion in a manner which would win the respect of its bitterest critic. Although the war has been in progress for eighteen months, no fault can be found with the Minister for the Navy or the Minister of Defence for their administration of our defence “policy. The Leader of the Opposition complained that the Treasurer has not submitted his Budget early enough, but the honorable gentleman could have submitted it earlier only by continually worrying the Home authorities for an account of the cost of maintaining our soldiers abroad. After the right honorable gentleman’s ‘Government came into power, on the 24th June, 1913, the House had to wait until the 2nd October of that year for a statement of the financial position, although there was no war to complicate our finances, and everything was ready for the right, honorable gentleman when he took office. As to what he has said concerning public utilities, I am a member of the Public Works Committee, and the position gives me a good insight into the expenditure of the Commonwealth. At Canberra there is a water supply scheme almost completed. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition called for tenders for carrying out that work. The engineer in charge asked permission to submit a price, too, and his price was 25 per cent, below the lowest tender. Then it was complained that the engineer had at his command means of traction which gave him an advantage, and tenders were therefore called for a second time, it being provided that the Commonwealth should deliver material along the route of the pipe line. A second time, however, the Commonwealth engineer’s price was 25 per cent, below that of the lowest tenderer. Under this much abused day-labour system the engineer is paying the men a living wage and housing them under conditions that no private contractor would provide. I have yet to learn of any private contractor’s camp in Australia that is sewered, or where a public school is provided, as is the case upon this work. Although there may be a few defects to be remedied, yet our officers are doing their very best, with the result that the work has been carried out well within the estimate. I do not know that any honorable member on this side of the Chamber is a member of a chamber of commerce, but the only logical conclusion I can gather from a motion which was carried by the Chamber of Commerce in Hobart - “That the Labour Government be petitioned to commence a line of steamers between Tasmania and the mainland “ - is that the followers of honorable members opposite have every confidence in getting assistance from the present Government. They know that the present Government would not do, as the Leader of the Opposition did ten minutes after he came into office, namely, increase the subsidy paid to a well-paying private enterprise, a shipping company paying large dividends, and every year adding large sums to its reserve fund. The Leader of the Opposition preferred to increase that company’s subsidy rather than enter into the industry himself. What kind of service is that company giving us to-day? Until I entered the chamber this afternoon, the last newspaper to hand from Hobart was that published last Saturday. Honorable members opposite talk about what private enterprise will do, and find fault with the man who uses the pick and shovel who asks, they say, for too high wages. The right honorable gentleman claims that there are no unemployed in Australia. Would that he had seen a deputation that waited on some of us this morning, a deputation of men willing to work but unable to get it, men with wives and families, not anxious to be given money or to enter some charitable institution, but desirous of getting that to which every man is entitled, namely, work, which is not available for them in Victoria, where there is a Government in power of the same heart as honorable members opposite. I am glad that the right honorable gentleman made such a clear statement as he did to-day. Why do honorable members opposite oppose giving men Government employment? Because they seek to have two men always running after one job, so that the necessity of having to provide for their families will compel men to accept any wage that is offered them. I hope that the present Government will never be guilty of such an action. I hope that it will go on spending money judiciously on great public works that will be useful for the Commonwealth. Not long ago I read a speech in which some honorable gentlemen said that we could not afford an Australian Navy, that we did not need one, and so on; but a time came when they had to admit that Australia needed a navy. To-day he must admit that it has done good work. And so, also, the establishment of an arsenal will do good work. We must have this great continent of ours self-contained, so that, should we have another terrible war, we shall be prepared, and the only way in which we can be prepared is by seeing that the country can supply all that is necessary for its defence. In these circumstances, the criticism of the right honorable gentleman in regard to the arsenal site is of very little effect. The right honorable gentleman asks whether we are getting 20s. worth of labour for every £1 spent. Shylock wanted to know if he was getting his pound of flesh. The right honorable gentleman knows well that, under the economic conditions of to-day, for every 20s. the employer pays he expects an additional two-thirds production. We who are living on others, and not producing, know it. We live on those who do produce. We are forced to come here and sit long hours in the chamber, and do the work of the country, but are not able to produce anything. Has any honorable member been seen ploughing a furrow in the vicinity of Parliament House, or digging a telegraph post hole, or excavating a trench, or doing any productive work? No. See the number of my friends opposite who are not doing productive work. Let us think of that 10 per cent, of our population who, the figures show us, do no work at all, and who would be insulted if we ever suggested that they should do a day’s work, and simply live on the other man. Instead of putting taxes on tea and other commodities, as the right honorable gentleman said last session he would do, the Labour Government taxed thi3 10 per cent., who had previously paid nothing. To-day they are just beginning to learn what it feels like to have to pay taxation; they are getting accustomed to it now, and they are not complaining so much; but if we remain in power much longer, they will go on paying as they have never paid before. It will be to the relief of the worker, who has always had to pay before. Why should not the man with an income of £1,000 a year pay a fair contribution to the cost of government, either by income tax or land values taxation, the latter of which is doing what many of us hoped it would do ? It is not providing so much revenue as it is bringing about the cutting up of big estates. Two years ago a place which I recently visited in Tasmania was virgin forest; to-day there is a school attended by a number of children, and there are flourishing farms; while advertisements call for men, at 10s. a day, for scrubbing the land still further. The tax has proved so pressing that the land has had to be put into use to the best possible extent. We hear bitter complaints about the Commonwealth lending money to the States. In my opinion, the Commonwealth Government is the only medium through which the States should obtain loan money. The Commonwealth can borrow much more cheaply.
– But the honorable member does not believe in the Commonwealth borrowing money.
– Under our present system, we must borrow money if we wish to progress. The Commonwealth Government lent the Labour Government in Tasmania money, which enabled that Government to take over the defunct hydro-electric scheme, and it is now seen that if the huge scheme had been ten times its size all the power it could provide would be utilized. From the GovernorGeneral down to the most humble man in Tasmania all are eulogizing the Labour Government for what they did. The Governor-General saw one of the finest works south of the line. The Mount Lyell Company has offered to take 50,000 electric horse-power per annum.
– This is great testimony to the efficacy of borrowing.
– It is testimony to the fact that the Commonwealth can make it easy for the States to borrow. I have no objection to borrowing money under these conditions, because it returns tenfold the money spent, and brings some- thing to the country which is far more valuable than money, namely, population. The only people we do not need in Australia are those who do not work; and when we get population, all we require to do is to keep the people in plenty of work under good conditions. When we, have those conditions, what do we find? We are producing men who are the admiration of the world because of their fine physique and intelligence. Agriculturists know that half the breeding goes down the throat of the animal. Because our men are so well looked after in Australia, and because by means of our educational system they are able to acquire knowledge, they have built up intellect as well as body, and at the front to-day they are the admiration of the world. If some of our friends opposite had had their way a few years ago, we could have sent only coloured men to the front.
– That is incorrect.
– The honorable member was in the House when that matter was discussed, and I ask him to say who was behind the Liberal party in adopting the policy of a White Australia ? Who was it said to the Liberal party, “ The moment you divert from the White Australia policy, out you go?” The honorable member knows that it is due to the Labour party that we have a White Australia to-day. I desire to say a few words with reference to the Telegraph Department in Tasmania. In watching the march past of the troops to-day, I was proud of the fact that so many of the telegraph engineers had been recruited from the much-abused Telegraph Department. As one who worked from the bottom to the top of the ladder in that branch of electrical work, I say that if there is one body of men in Australia which ought to receive good treatment at the hands of the Government, it is the electricians and linesmen of the Telegraph Department. They have to undergo long training and study in order to qualify for their work, and there is no scientific occupation that has changed so rapidly in recent years as that connected with telegraphs and telephones. Yet in Tasmania qualified linesmen are being removed from the cities where they are required and sent into country districts to direct the labour of casual hands. Instead of the ranks being filled by trained men who have passed the necessary examination, and can be trusted to do this work satisfactorily, casual hands are being engaged, and their employment is limited by the regulations to nine months. How is the engineer-in-charge to carry out his work efficiently if he has to continually teach new casual hands, and if immediately one body of men has become qualified for the work they are dismissed and a new body of men engaged? Would any business firm in the Commonwealth adopt such a policy ? Owing to the completion of the hydro-electric scheme in Tasmania, there is a current from the generating station, 63 miles from Hobart, having a voltage of 83,000 electric horse-power. It is said that a man would be killed if he approached within three feet of that highly-charged cable. The enormous power of the current can be understood from the fact that the tramways in Hobart are run with a voltage of 410 volts as compared with this potential current from the hydro-electric scheme of 83,000 electric horse-power. Should a man get foul of any portion of the wire which is not earthed he could not let go, and he would be carbonized in a few minutes unless somebody was able to release him. Does not the existence of that danger warrant the Department obtaining and keeping the most efficient men that can be had ? The cables are being undergrounded in the streets of Hobart, and from the ground they are carried up poles and thence reticulated. The insulation on the telephone wires is merely a paper wrapping sufficient to prevent the ordinary telephone current breaking through ; but immediately a high-voltage current passed through those wires the whole installation would be burnt out and damage to the extent of many thousands of pounds would be done in a few minutes.
– Is there not in Tasmania an Electric Light and Power Act such as we have in Victoria ?
– Yes; but I remember that not many years ago a man was burnt up by a contact in Collinsstreet.
– Such occurrences have been very rare.
– That is so; but surely the life of even one man is of ‘more importance than the saving of a few shillings by the Commonwealth. If human life can be saved by the employment of trained and efficient men, why should we not have them ? I make these remarks with a view to helping the Minister, because if there is one thing regarding which I claim to have knowledge, it is electrical engineering. I hope the Minister will be seized of the gravity of the situation, and let the engineers employ the men they want. I assure him that well-trained men will carry out the work so cheaply that the Department will find their employment a payable proposition. I also desire to see the interpretation of the award given in the Arbitration Court to the linemen placed in the hands of a practical man, who understands the intricate question he is dealing with, instead of a man who does not know a telegraph sounder from an insulator. There is much discontent in the service because those who are adjudicating do not understand the technical work which the men do. The Judge in the Arbitration Court, having a sound understanding of the evidence, gave an award which was satisfactory to the men, but dissatisfaction is being caused by the wrong interpretation placed upon it. The men ask for what they believe to be a fair interpretation, and I hope the Minister will concede their request.
– Is it not the Public Service Commissioner who interprets the award ?
– I cannot discover who. is responsible; the Public Service Commissioner refers the men to the Minister, and the Minister refers them to the Commissioner. But I do say that, after the men have incurred the expense of obtaining an award, they should get an interpretation in accordance with the intention of the Court. There is another ground for discontent. The members of the union spent a good deal of money in going before the Court, but non-union workers, who do not contribute any money to the union, nor incur any of the expense of arbitration, participate in all the benefits which the union has gained. That is not just. There should be preference to unionists in the service as well as outside. Why should we ask a private individual to give preference to unionists if we are not prepared to give it in the Postal Department?
– Industrial unionism or political unionism?
– I do not understand the honorable member. If he is a member of any company, he is just as much a unionist as I am. A company is merely a union of capital, and an industrial union is a combination of the workers’ capital - their energy. By the time the worker has paid the rent lord and the interest lord, there is very little capital left to him but his hand and his brain. For a long time the workers used only their hands, without employing their brains in their own interest. Sick of that, they are now proceeding to work with their brains and to obtain that justice which they have sought so long. Justice to the workers is assuredly coming through the unions, and through that political party which is proud to represent them in this Parliament; and great though the honorable member for Wide Bay may be as an orator or as a politician, I warn him that he has no chance of changing the opinion of this Chamber in regard to unionism. Before concluding, I should like to call attention again to the unsatisfactory mail service between the mainland and Tasmania. Those who reside on the mainland receive a mail every day, but although Tasmania is only a few hundred miles distant, a week has elapsed since the last letter I received from my constituency was posted. I hope that the disability under which the people of the island State labour will be remedied in a way that honorable members, and also the Chamber of Commerce in Hobart, have suggested, namely, by the creation of a Commonwealth line of steamers.
. We had an opportunity yesterday to discuss our contribution to the war in the shape of men and munitions, and, as I did not avail myself of it, I do not propose to deal with that question now, but to confine my remarks to the Estimates. It is very unusual and unsatisfactory to have to deal with the Estimates almost at the termination of the year, especially when they have not been before us for any length of time. It is often the case, of course, for Estimates to be submitted and not converted into an Appropriation Act for many months, but honorable members always had the satisfaction of having the Estimates before them and of studying them - a privilege denied us on the present occasion. There is no reason whatever why the Estimates should have been so long delayed, and I remember that, when in office, I found none so persistent and insistent on their introduction as the members of the party now in power. Even before the first month had expired after the financial year, I, as Treasurer, found the constant question from those honorable members to be as to the date of the introduction of the Estimates, and there have been occasions when they have been laid on the table within a month.
– Has the right honorable member himself not been very persistent on the point when in Opposition .
– I have, but more as a joke, as I know that two months from the close of the year is a very reasonable time within which to introduce the Estimates; but it ought not to be later if honorable members are to have the full information that is necessary. We are now in the eleventh month of the year, and we have promised to pass the Estimates in two or three days, and I confess that I cannot pretend to make myself acquainted with them all in a moment. Then, their arrangement, if convenient to the Treasury, is certainly not convenient to honorable members. The whole of the expenditure on public works and also on the war is lumped together as making up the current expenditure, while loans raised from one source or another have all been included in the revenue for the year. If this arrangement is more convenient for the Treasury, the Estimates ought to be accompanied by additional returns in order to render the position clear to honorable members. We know that the revenue of the country is only about £28,000,000, while the Estimates before us show receipts from all sources as £89,000,000. This figure is enough to stagger one at first sight; but when we scrutinize the Estimates we find that £61,000,000 is represented by loans, leaving only £28,000,000 as the real ordinary revenue for the year. Even that revenue is larger than ever before, and the reason is not very far to seek. We have what might be called extraordinary sources of revenue, including military and naval payments of £620,000. These, I suppose, represent freight received from ships which we have interned and are using, for I do not see that there can be any other actual revenue from such a source. Then there is revenue of £228,000 from the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway, which is all absorbed by the expenditure. These and other payments, of course, are what may be described as bookkeeping receipts, and, though they swell the apparent revenue, they do not mean that any cash has passed. This is somewhat misleading, and! apt to make us appear much richer than we really are, and there ought to be some statement or explanation attached. A similar remark might be made about the credit associated with postages, and I have often thought that in such cases there ought to be a clear line drawn between moneys received and payment for” services represented by bookkeeping entries. In all the States there are shown large revenues amounting to millions of pounds, but when analyzed these turn out to be railway services which cost nearly as much as the revenue received. The Commonwealth, of course, in this regard is not in the same position as the States, because we have a large real income from land and income taxes, and Customs revenue, and so forth. The revenue for the year was £28,000,000 in round figures, and the estimate was £26,000,000, showing a very satisfactory excess on the right side, while, what is also satisfactory, the expenditure was £1,377,000 less than the estimate of £25,000,000. I have not had time to analyze all the figures, and I do not know that I could have done so without a great deal of trouble, but I fancy that this decrase is due, as is often the case, to expenditure for public works having to be held over until another year. I notice that on current account there is a surplus of £3,380,000, apart from loans, which the Treasurer proposes to carry to future war expenditure. I hope, however, that that will not be done, because, in this time of difficulty and high taxation, we ought not to pay war expenses out of current account. I have always understood that this war was to be financed from borrowed money, with provision for interest and sinking fund out of revenue; and that, in my opinion, is as much as we ought to be asked to do at the present time.
– They are doing more than that in Great Britain.
– There a different system is observed, most great public works being carried out by private enterprise. We ought to do what the States of Australia have done with great success - borrow as cheaply as we can, pay interest from current account, and provide a sinking fund to obliterate the indebtedness in a certain number of years. Indeed, I do not think we can finance the war in any other way. It is not possible for a Treasurer to get money for a war out of taxation, nor do I think it is desirable; and, therefore, I ask the honorable gentleman to consider the matter. Last year when the income tax and land tax measures were before us, I said that with care and economy, the way to which I pointed out, there was no necessity for imposing extra taxation. 1 based my argument on facts which I stated, and, though I was not then listened to, events have proved that I was about right. The figures show that if there had been no income tax imposed there would still have been plenty of money to pay this year’s account. According to these Estimates, the income tax receipts amounted to £3,200,000, while the surplus is £3,380,000; and these figures, I think, justify my contention that there was no necessity last year for the taxation proposed. I may also say that I do not think it right for the Government at the present time to take more than is necessary out .of the pockets of the people - only what is necessary, and nothing more, should be taken. Last year, however, as we see, we took £3,3S0,000 more than was required, or otherwise there would not have been the present surplus, even with all the expenditure that has been going on. Usually a Treasurer is pretty well satisfied if he finds himself in the happy position of making both ends meet. On future occasions the Treasurer, if he has a small surplus, will feel that he has done very well. For reasons known to hire, it is our rule here to- make the expenditure equal the revenue. The war expenditure set out in the Budget is less than I expected it to be, but the reason is not far to seek. The Treasurer has told us that there are outstanding accounts owing to the Imperial Government for equipment and other expenditure, and I believe that they will amount to a very large sum.
– Is not the Treasurer justified in keeping a reserve to meet them?
– He need not do that. Under our system, each year looks after itself. The Constitution will not allow the Commonwealth to hoard up money.
– Any surplus can be put into a Trust Fund.
– Yes, subterfuges of that kind may be adopted. The war expenditure of 1914-15 was £15,000,000, and this year it is £44,000,000, or £29,000,000 more, which is not an excessive increase, considering the number of troops despatched and the extent of our operations. As to the loan expenditure of the Commonwealth, it must be remembered that in the gold that lies in the Treasury, and in the debts due to us by the States, we have about £36,000,000 of assets, which reduce our indebtedness to £94,000,000 approximately, which includes the £28,000,000 which represents the difference between the value of the notes which have been issued and the gold which is held against them; a liability that we are not likely to be called upon to meet. The Treasurer expects to have about £13,000,000 of loan moneys in hand on the 30th June next. We are borrowing another £25,000,000 from the Imperial Government, of which only £7,000,000 has been received. The value of the note issue is now £43,000,000, against which there is a gold reserve of £15,000,000. Of the notes issued, the public holds about £13,000,000, the rest being held by the banks. Since the war began, the note issue has increased by about £34,000,000, and the value of the notes in the hands of the public by about £7,000,000. This is satisfactory indication of the public confidence in our note issue. So long as the people feel that they can at any time exchange their notes for gold, the note issue will be safe, and, in my opinion, its present position is quite satisfactory. An interesting and new return in the Budget-papers contains an analysis of the incomes of the people that will dissipate many exaggerated ideas as to the enormous number of wealthy persons in Australia. Of course, “wealth” is a comparative term. The man with an income of £100 regards an income ten times as great as enormous, although many a man receiving £1,000 a year considers himself poor. There are only 311 persons in Australia whose incomes reach £5,000 a year and upwards, and only 4,417 persons whose incomes are between £75Q and £1,000 a year. An income of £5,000 may seem very large to some, but it soon goes when it is used to keep up a reasonably sized house and a big staff.
When I had a limited income I thought that I was well off, and bo I was, because my income was equal to my demands. I have since had more, and have sometimes felt quite as short of cash as I used to feel. Something has been said about the large number of persons without incomes, but, to my mind, the figures are not surprising. It must be remembered that included in the number of these people are all women over the age of eighteen years, and a great many daughters and wives living at home do not keep separate income accounts. It seems to me not unlikely that there may be at least 248,740 persons who are rightly set down as having no separate income of their own. I wish now to say a word or two regarding the clamour by persons, who, unfortunately, have no accumulated wealth for conscription of wealth, with which the Treasurer seems not to be in sympathy. To my mind, our progressive land and income taxation is correctly described as conscription of wealth. In some instances, the income taxation amounts to 25 per cent, of the income. For many years in Australia, and, in my own State up to the time that I left it, all taxation was on flat rates, men paying in proportion to what they had. The flat rate system has been abandoned, both here and in Great Britain, for what is called the progressive graduated system, under which one man may pay at the rate of a penny in the £1, and another at the rate of as much as 5s. in the £1. Under the flat rate system a man with an income of £1,000 a year would pay ten times as much as the man with’ an income of £100 a year, which is in accord with the cry of honorable members opposite that all men, rich and poor, should be treated alike. Nowadays rich and poor are not treated alike, taxation being on a’ graduated scale, and, therefore, it must be admitted that for a considerable time past we have had conscription of wealth in Australia. The Acting Prime Minister said lately that progressive graduated taxation was confiscation. Equality of treatment in taxation has, gone, and conscription of wealth is now part of our financial system. Those who say that the rich man has not a portion of his wealth conscripted are not fair or honest in what they are saying. The Treasurer has made no mention in his financial statement of the Northern Territory. I do not know whether this omission was intentional, because the subject was so unsatisfactory. The Treasurer has not been in office long enough to be held primarily responsible for what has taken place, but he should have taken the Chamber into his confidence in regard to this very important matter. In 1913-14 the revenue from the Northern Territory was £74,000, and the deficiency was £462,000. In 1914-15 the revenue increased to £83,000, and the deficiency was £392,000. This year, 1915-16, the estimated revenue is £77,000, or £6,000 less than in the previous year, while the estimated deficiency is £533,000. In all, for the three years we have received £234,000 as revenue, and the deficiency has been £1,407,000. In addition, in the same period £1,149,000 has been spent from loan funds in the Northern Territory. During the three years we have spent £2,556,000 on the Territory, and this huge expenditure was not referred to by the Treasurer in his financial statement. He should have put the facts before honorable members in a better way than I am doing now in this cursory fashion. The defence expenditure, war and ordinary local, last year was about £20,000,000. This year it is about £50,000,000. It is a very serious matter, but we cannot avoid it. All that we can hope for is that the Treasurer will spend the money as economically as he can, consistently with securing extra good efficiency. I cannot conclude my remarks without referring to the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway. I have not said much about this line lately, but it has caused me a great deal of trouble. “We are meeting with difficulties which we did not anticipate would arise. There has never been a railway on which there has been a similar attempt to give every reasonable comfort and such high wages to the men working upon it. Liberal and Labour Governments have done their best in this respect. But we have not been rewarded with that amount of consideration to which the country is entitled. There have been strikes and unreasonable demands. I do not mind a man asking for what he wants, but he should not strike until he gets it; he should continue his work, and trust to those who are employing him, and especially so when his employers are the Commonwealth Government.
– Men have not yet got anything but that for which they have struck and fought.
– The honorable member expects them to strike?
– When there is good reason to do so.
– There has been no good reason to strike against the law. The Arbitration Act was passed at the request of the Labour party for the purpose of abolishing strikes. Are we now to abolish the Arbitration Court and Arbitration Acts and revert to the barbaric principles that honorable members claimed were so injurious to all? According to the honorable member, after having passed all these laws, they are to go for nothing, and we are to have strikes. The work of construction was held up once for four months on the question of increased pay. Eventually the men went back to work on the understanding that a Judge would be appointed, and they should go to arbitration, but so far they have not asked for the Judge to have the matter heard and determined. I am sure that I have every honorable member with me when I say that I regret that there are still 283 miles of this railway to be completed. I know that want of rails has made it impossible for the Government to continue laying rails, but I trust that before this short sitting of the House is over we shall have some information from the Minister of Home Affairs in regard to when that work of plate-laying can be continued. It was the Minister who told us that the whole line would be built within less than three years, but so far six years have passed, and still the line is unfinished. It is to cost £5,112,000, which is £.1,000,000 above the estimate. The increased cost is too much, being at the rate of £5,000 a mile.
– The cost of raw material has gone up.
– If I were in the position of the Minister of Home Affairs I would prepare a statement as to the reason for this increased cost, which the people put down to extravagance and to the fact that the results which a contractor would obtain are not secured under the day-labour system. A contractor hustles his men. I hope that the Government engineers get fair play from the men also. The Government could tell us why the estimate of £4,000,000 has been so greatly exceeded. Some years ago the Western Australian Government promised to continue the broad-gauge line 387 miles, from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, so soon as the section from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie was completed. My view is that the people of Western Australia should use every effort to do so; but they made the promise a long while ago, when there was no war or rumours of war. In fact, they passed a Bill undertaking to do the work if the Commonwealth agreed to begin to construct the work within five years. The Commonwealth did not do so, and the measure has been allowed to lapse, and there is no legal obligation on the Western Australian Government to do the work. PUt the people of Western Australia are anxious that the line should be built.
– The people of Western Australia promised to do it when there was no Bill passed by the Federal Government to build a line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta.
– And as money is scarce in Western Australia, they say that if the Commonwealth will lend them the money they will do the work. I am pleased that the honorable member for Hindmarsh has interjected. South Australia would not undertake to join Western Australia in building the railway. When I was Premier of Western Australia, I offered to build our section of 450 miles to the border if Mr. Kingston would continue the line from the border to Port Augusta. I believe that when I was absent in Great Britain Mr. Kingston said that he was willing, to do it; but I was not aware of it, and later, when I returned, he informed me that he thought it would be better to allow the Commonwealth Government to undertake the work. Furthermore, the people of South Australia delayed the building of the line for several years by withholding their consent to the Commonwealth Government undertaking it, until the Commonwealth took over the Northern Territory. However, I do not wish to deal with that aspect of the matter. I ask why Western Australia, with a small population and a small revenue, should be required to build 387 miles of this transcontinental railway, while South Australia has 650 miles of the line built in her territory, towards the cost of which it does not contribute a single penny. It has as much logical responsibility as Western Australia has to contribute towards the cost of the line. I should have thought that the Kalgoorlie-Fremantle section could have been remade at a less cost than £2,777,000. My own impression was that the work of widening the gauge would not cost more than £1,000,000. I am sure that if the line were laid along the present track - improving the grades here and there to the standard of 1 in 100 - for nearly the whole of the distance it would not cost anything like the estimated sum, which is equal to the cost of building an entirely new line. However, as the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Western Australia are of the same mind, I have no doubt that some arrangement may be arrived at for the early carrying out of the work. The one gauge must be carried through to Fremantle. It is useless to build a railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie on a certain gauge, and then to meet with a change of gauge. By the way, I understand that the South Australian Government is building a line from Adelaide to Port Augusta on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, which will mean a change of carriages at Port Augusta by persons travelling to Kalgoorlie from Adelaide. I have suggested to South Australian statesmen that they should build the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge from Port Augusta into the beautiful city of Adelaide, and give visitors travelling on the transcontinental railway an opportunity of changing there and staying a few days there. In regard to the Federal Capital, upon which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro says that the Government are not spending enough money, I notice that the expenditure to date is £1,353,000, of which £501,000 was expended from loan in purchasing land.
– When you were in the Territory with me, you said that you approved of the expenditure.
– I said that the work had been very well done, but I did not express any opinion as to the cost. I had no evidence of cost before me. I should like some information from the Minister for the Navy regarding th’e cost of the Naval Bases. Large sums of money are being expended at the Henderson and Flinders Bases, but no informa tion is given to honorable members as to what is being done. My own opinion is that the works are not being done economically, and that some of the work is not urgent.
– We will have men training at Flinders Base within a few months.
– Will that expenditure at Flinders Base do any good for some years ahead ? I am afraid that the Henderson Base will not be completed for ten years, and that it will cost millions of pounds. The work seems to have been carried out in an expensive and extravagant way, and I should like to have a report made on it. The Public Accounts Committee and Public Works Committee have been probing all sorts of places where they are not wanted: yet this enormous expenditure. on Flinders and Henderson Bases they have never made any effort to investigate. I notice that tie Treasurer has given us a very useful return, which shows that last year the expenditure consequent on the war was £15,000,000, and this year £44,000,000, making a total of £59,000,000. The particulars regarding the public debt, too, are very interesting, showing, as they do, that the States owe £326,000,000, of which £228,000,000 is redeemable in London The balance of £98,000,000 is redeemable in Australia, and that is a very satisfactory feature. I did not rise with the object of unduly criticising the Government, but rather to ask for further information in regard to matters which are not disclosed on the Estimates in sufficient detail. I would impress upon the Government the necessity for economy” in administration. Very careful oversight is required in Departments, and the opinion must not be allowed to get abroad that carelessness in expenditure does not matter. In these times we look to Ministers to insure that not a pennyworth of expenditure is incurred unnecessarily. I know that the Postmaster-General has a very arduous responsibility in controlling the large expenditure of his Department, but that expenditure does require a great deal of supervision. In regard to the operations of the Department in my own State I have no complaints to make. The officers are courteous to me, and endeavour to do what I urge upon them as necessary. I must say, however, that to any one coming from Perth the telephone system in Melbourne is most irksome and annoying. In Perth one can ring up another person in a moment without depending on the assistance of a third party.
– You are lucky to have the automatic system in Perth.
– It is a very good system, and I should like to see it introduced in Melbourne. Anybody accustomed to the automatic system considers himself very badly treated when he has to deal with the system in operation in this city. Before concluding, I should like to express my regret that my old friend and officer, Mr. 6. T. Allen, C.M.G., I.S.O., has retired from his position as Permanent Secretary of the Treasury. I was his chief on three separate occasions, covering a period of over three years, and I desire to place on record the fact that I found him a most excellent and able officer, reliable, honorable, and anxious to loyally carry out the decisions of his Minister after giving his own valuable unbiased advice. He enjoyed the complete confidence of myself and of all the Treasurers with whom he was associated, viz., Sir George Turner, Mr. Watson, Sir William Lyne, Mr. Fisher, and myself. I am sorry tha.t he has left the Department, although I know that he had reached the age when he had the right to retire. When lie mentioned retirement to me on one occasion, I urged him to remain with me in the Treasury. I feel that this tribute is due to him for his long, exemplary, honorable, and able service.
.- I have no intention of traversing the speech of the amiable right honorable member who has just completed his address, beyond the comment that it is characteristic of him that he expresses the view that industrial disturbances are not altogether to be condemned except in those cases where industrial unrest is backed up by some concrete action in the nature of a strike. The honorable^ member and those who sit with him believe in industrial unionism, and the right of men to organize, but not in the right of men, by co-ordination, organization, and stem resolve, to insist that their views shall receive at least as fair a hearing as the views of those opposed to them. I was entertained by the right honorable gentleman who leads the Opposition when_ he said that the party on this side, notwith standing the continuance of this tragicinternational struggle, maintained itsparty organization and party conflict.
– Not maintained them, but operated them actively.
– I carry on businessin the centre of the city in a large building with many tenants, and I was struck forcibly the other day by seeing at the main entrance to that building, which is used by many persons of diverse political opinions, a flaring placard issued by the Women’s National League for party purposes, and to entice persons entering that building, my own office included, to sign a petition in favour of conscription. Thelady was a strong anti-Labour advocate.
– Does the honor able member regard conscription as a party question?
– I mentioned that fact merely as an illustration of how far the Conservative bodies have stayed their party politics.
– Is conscription a party question?
– The question of conscription was discussed here yesterday, and I propose to discuss it, in some measure, at all events, this afternoon. I should not like it to be thought that I had any compunction in discussing it, or that the fact that some observations of mine heretofore were received in certain quarters with almost a brutal lack of toleration had bludgeoned me into silence regarding a matter which I conceive to be of the very highest national importance, and on which I, as a representative and trustee of the people for the time being, feel myself called upon to speak. Before dealing with conscription, however, I cannot help adverting to a view put forward by the Leader of the Opposition, in discussing the Estimates, that we should, in putting our house in order, suspend all operations, apparently of whatever kind, or however necessary, in order that we may bend our whole energies, our last and “our first effort, to the successful prosecution of this war. Did the right honorable gentleman speak under a sense of responsibility to this Commonwealth? Does he really think that the best interests of the Empireare served by neglecting the local requirements of the Commonwealth ? Ought he not to feel that the best way in which wecan serve the Empire is to keep the Commonwealth moving as a going concern - to keep open, and, as far as is necessary, subsidize and support the avenues of production, distribution, and exchange ? If we fail to keep the avenues of employment open, and production progressive and flourishing - if we fail in these paramount duties - what is to be the fate of the Commonwealth after the war, when the men whom we have sent to fight begin to return, and we have to face the enormous liabilities which every day we are heaping on our shoulders?
Mr.W. Elliot Johnson. - Honorable members opposite are doing everything to check production, instead of encouraging it.
– That is what the Leader of the Opposition says we ought to do, and that is what I complain of in his observations. My opinion is that we, especially those of us who are not fighting, and are not proposing to fight, and also those of us who are not eligible to fight, should do our best at home in an economic and political sense to keep the Commonwealth going as a productive nation.
– I entirely agree with that.
– Yesterday we heard two eloquent speeches in this chamber on conscription and related matters. I may say at once that, so far as the secret meeting is concerned, and the address that was delivered in confidence to the members of both Houses, and both parties, a day or two ago, I think that, the meeting having been held, the proper course for us was to make no reference whatever to it, either good or bad.
– Does the honorable member think that the meeting was intended as a “gag” to shut the mouths of the Opposition?
– I do not think there was any intention to “ gag “ any honorable member; but I may say that I am not favorable to secret sessions of any kind. It is my duty, I take it, as a member of Parliament, to be in the complete confidence of my electors.I am very loath indeed to carry with me the burden of confidence when I go to my constituents, so that my mouth is closed in regard to matters on which I think they ought to be informed in order that they, as well as I, may form sound, welldeliberated opinions. I need hardly add, however, that, having heard the Acting Prime Minister in his interesting address, I am sure that every honorable member will resolutely and absolutely observe the trust reposed in him. I think, however, that I should be doing less than duty to myself if I failed to register the view that these confidential communications between Ministers and members are not to my taste. I took no exception, and I take none now, to either the tone or the substance - to the taste or the tactics - of the speech delivered yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition or the speech of the honorable member for Flinders on the same subject. It is a fact that when the right honorable member for Parramatta speaks he has the faculty of exuding party politics, even when he is not addressing himself to a distinctly party argument.
– That is nonsense !
– The right honorable member is so saturated with party politics that, even with the very best intentions - and I think he displayed the best intentions yesterday - it is almost impossible for him to dissociate himself entirely from party tactics and the general principles of party warfare.
– Is that honestly a fair statement to make?
-I think it is one of those temperate, mild, and charitable statements which usually distinguish me when I am criticising honorable members on the other side. I wish to congratulate honorable’ members opposite on the perfect freedom they enjoy in this House to put their side of the question; and I do so with a certain feeling of envy, owing to the fact that I have not hitherto enjoyed that privilege to the same extent, certainly not outside this House. I congratulate them all the more sincerely when I realize that outside this chamber the men who dare to canvass the views expressed here by honorable members yesterday - men who dare, with all deliberation, and no matter with how high a sense of duty, to place their views in contradistinction to those of others on the question of conscription, are hounded and hooted as though they were not reputable men discharging a public and private duty, but public nuisances to be shunned by all right-thinking persons.
– Where does that happen?
– The honorable member must have been living in a house apart when he asks such a question. I have a pretty lively recollection, personally, of where and when it has happened.
– Where did it happen?
– It happened, amongst other places, in the city of Melbourne in connexion with public addresses delivered by me in my own electorate to my own constituents.
– Did you not say something pretty strong on that occasion ?
– Yes, but not anything stronger than I am going to say here and have said hitherto - nothing stronger than I think ought to be said. I believe the honorable members to whom I have referred to be perfectly sincere - I add that to the words of encomium I have already used’ in regard to them. If they had used’ other words or other arguments, I should have been disposed to think they were insincere, because, great as my respect is for those honorable members, and honest as I believe them to be in the expression of their opinions, there is no evading the fact that they depend in this House and outside on a party to whom the very breath of life is the spirit of coercion and compulsion. We have had industrial coercion and political coercion, and now we have the roof-tree of all, military coercion - the coercion of life and limb.
– Who coerced Holman?
– I do not know who “ coerced “ Holman, and I am not concerned about him. I can’ tell the honorable member, however, that I shall refer to Mr. Holman a little later on in terms which will show that that gentleman has not my admiration, and that I do not court his good opinion. If a dispute arises between some workers on the one side and some employers on the other, whether the employers be the State, some wealthy individual, or a wealthy corporation, we find that the members and the friends of the party opposite, without consideration or hesitation, and without asking any questions as to the merits of the case, invariably hurl themselves on the side of the rich against the poor, of the strong against the weak. The honorable member for Flinders told us yesterday, as he has told us here before, that conscription is vitally necessary to the salva tion of the Commonwealth. He made his observations impressively and eloquently, as he generally does; but it appears to me that, because he is listened to with the patience and respect due to his position, he has come to regard himself as the veritable voice of one calling in the wilderness - as some god-sent messenger who alone has the secret of this country’s prosperity, or even safety, within his own keeping. I have listened with patience to him before, and, no doubt, shall do so again, but the time has passed when I can regard as gospel his utterances on the subject of conscription, compulsion, and coercion. A great deal of what he said about the Commonwealth’s future, the lurid picture that he drew of what might happen to the people of Australia, I regard as pure moonshine and nonsense. To him, coercion has always been as the breath of the nostrils, as meat and drink. I have no desire to revive events of long ago, but reference to them is peculiarly pertinent at the present time. The man who, as soon as a conflict between workers and employers arose in this State, knew no other policy to apply to it than coercion and suppression, without argument, is naturally in favour of coercion to-day. But it is not to be supposed that that policy would be accepted without question by the people of Australia. I would hesitate to pit my opinion against that of the honorable and learned member for Flinders were it not for the fact that history is against him. He and his friends prophesied at the beginning of the war and during its continuance, and events have given the lie to all their prophecies. The know-alls who have laid down the law in regard to the war have been proved to know nothing, and probably their latest prophecies will be falsified as the old have been. If there was ever a time when a prophet had no honour in his own country it is now. I shall not charge the honorable and learned member with having drawn lugubrious and horrifying pictures to induce young men who have other views as to their responsibilities to go into the fighting line; but similarly lurid pictures are being painted by his friends and supporters outside, and for no higher purpose. It is painful and pathetic, at a time like this, when every one is distraught with the horrors and responsibilities of the war, and when so many, women especially, are in the throes of boundless grief because of the separation and loss of relatives, that public men, and even women, should raise these ghastly spectres of the possible future of Australia for the purpose of driving into the ranks men who feel that they ought not to enlist. Such means are absolutely ignoble, however worthy the end to which they might be applied. I wish now to say a word or two on the merits of compulsion and conscription. There are some things which are worse than conscription as it may be proposed here, or has been put into force in the Old Country. It may be interjected that defeat would be worse; but I do not take the responsibility of saying that it would. Conscription is Prussianism. The moment we write the baleful legend of conscription across the brows of Australian manhood, that moment we have written down our nation by at least 50 per cent. Therefore I do not for a moment say that defeat would be necessarily worse than conscription. A defeated ration may be “ still in heart and conscience free.” I absolutely dissent from the view that seems to be everywhere accepted as a truism that the greatness of a people depends on the measure of its application of physical force. Physical force can never give a people spiritual or intellectual greatness. It cannot promote a permanent peace. It is this pagan doctrine that everything depends on our power to kill and destroy that does more than anything else to undermine the stability and progress of a nation. It is a grossly material and un-Christian doctrine that deteriorates the calibre of any nation to which it is applied or by which it has been applied. But you can have conscription without an Act of Parliament. And we have conscription of a kind in Victoria to-day - a fact that should not be forgotten. The other day a young man said to me, “ I have three brothers in the fighting line, of whom two are married. I have to keep an aged mother, and my brothers’ wives are living with me, and are being kept in part by me, because the soldier pay of their husbands is not sufficient to maintain them.” All this domestic responsibility has to be supported by the wage of a working man.
– Is he married?
– Then the story is an argument for conscription, because, under conscription, it would be the single man who would go, while the married men would stay.
– What about the honorable member for Richmond ? He is under the age.
– He has got into the safe sanctuary of the afraid. He has contracted marriage, I understand.
– And I have offered myself twice for military service, and been turned down on both occasions.
– The authorities showed good judgment in turning the honorable member down. The man to whom I was referring was informed by his employer that his services would no longer be required after a certain date, because as a single man he was eligible for active service abroad. It is disgraceful and contemptible that a man with such obligations should be charged by his employer with failing in his duty to his country. This man is performing the highest duty that any man could perform, and is acting in conformity with the dictates of his conscience. His case is an instance of conscription without an Act of Parliament. I have here a circular addressed by a recruiting committee of Fitzroy to a married man who is the father of seven children, one of them being a cripple. This man sent in his war census paper full and complete in every particular, and subsequently received a circular - this is the second summons that he got - stating -
As you did not respond to the previous communication with reference to your replies as contained in census paper, we presume the evening mentioned was inconvenient. A further opportunity will be given to you to present yourself on Tuesday,May 2nd, between the hours of 7.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. Failing to appear, your paper will be forwarded to the military authorities for further action.
To-day I asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether further action was lawful or sanctioned by the Defence Department, and the reply I received, and which I knew I must get, was that the law did not sanction any further action; that the statement which I have read was mere “ bluff,” compulsion and coercion in faint disguise, mere trading on the want of knowledge of a working man. A communication addressed to another man said -
You are requested to appear before the confidential committee - a footnote stating - o
I have to advise that in default of personal appearance or satisfactory explanation further action will be taken.
I tell honorable members - and I shall take the opportunity to tell my constituents - that no further action can be lawfully taken. The threat is printed on blue, official-looking paper, having the coat of arms of the municipality at the top, to coerce the working man to whom it is addressed. It is a fraud.
– By whom was the notice issued ?
– These notices have been issued apparently by what is called the Fitzroy Confidential Recruiting Committee, and bear a signature which I do not propose to disclose unless that course becomes absolutely necessary. Yesterday, within the precincts of this chamber, I spoke to a married man whose wife is bedridden, and has to be moved carefully from one room to another to get fresh air. She requires his constant attention, so far as his work will allow him to give it. In making up his war return, he explained his circumstances, and was called upon to appear before a confidential committee. He ignored it, and was told then that if he did not attend the committee his replies would be forwarded among the unsatisfactory replies to the Defence authorities. That is coercion of a contemptible character. In a speech delivered on Tuesday last at the opening of the annual conference of the New South Wales Shire Councils Association the State Governor, Sir Gerald Strickland, is reported to have said -
The first thing you must do is to appeal to the vor ng men in country districts to go and fight”
To that I take no exception. His Excellency then went on to say -
Rub it in to every young man you meet that next year or the year after, and when he is an old man, and sees about him other brave Australians who served in the war, his conscience will begin to smite him. In the years to come the man will he ashamed of himself and spend miserably the declining days of his life.
– Hear, hear !
– I am not surprised to hear the honorable member for Kooyong say “ Hear, hear.” I shall make no further reference to the honorable member. I say, however, that it is discreditable and disgraceful that this representative of the Sovereign should dare to talk in this way of the people of the Commonwealth - the free citizens of Australia. This arbitrary choice by certain employers of men as to who should go forward to the slaughter is a very delectable thing indeed. Every little industrial nabob who buys the services of half-a-dozen men finds himself qualified to be a press gang in himself, and to apply the principles of the press gang, apparently with a glowing sense of pride and exaltation. Now, having dealt with one phase of conscription, I come to the claim that conscription is democratic. By whom is this claim made?
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7. £5 p.m.
– I understand that something that I said before the adjournment, in reply to an interjection from the honorable member for Richmond, and addressed to him, has given him some offence. I desire to say that what I said at that time, having reference to the position of married men under conscription, was said without any knowledge of the personal or private affairs or position of the honorable member. I was anxious to illustrate my argument by a reference to the position of married men as compared with single men, but what I said was uttered with no intention of offending the honorable member personally, and with no intention of dealing with his case as distinct from those persons who are separated from the unmarried class by reason of the fact that they are married. I can assure the honorable member that he is quite wrong if the thinks that I had any desire to be personally offensive towards him. Nothing was further from my thoughts.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say it.
– The argument that conscription is democratic is put forward by those who are professed and active compulsioniste. I am reminded of the old classic saying that we should beware of the Greeks when they bring us gifts. We should beware of those who have fought the principles of Democracy when they appeal to us on democratic grounds. Who are those to-day, particularly those outside this chamber, who influence, support, and return honorable members opposite, who are making this demand for conscription ?
– Senator Lynch, Senator Stewart, and Senator Newland.
– I am reminded that there are some exceptions to the rule. Some Labour men and some Labour supporters have been caught up by the belief that there is a democratic principle underlying compulsion for defence purposes. The honorable member for Macquarie is one. I appreciate his feelings, but he is misguided with respect to this matter. He has shown a certain amount of independence of thought, as he is pleased to call it, which some of his supporters in the Labour movement describe by a harsher name. But let that go. I address myself to the great body of public opinion which to-day is supporting compulsion for military purposes. I do not say that it is the greatest or the greater body, but I say that it is, nevertheless, a great body of public opinion numerically. But who are they who support compulsion for military purposes? In the press and on the platform, wherever you meet them, you find that they are of the same class as those who have resolutely stood against every democratic reform that we have won in Australia, against every amelioration of industrial conditions, against every industrial movement politically that we have ever made, whether by means of a Wages Board, which in their day they declared to be impracticable and foolish, or by means of arbitration, which they attacked as being an interference with the inviolable law of supply and demand, or by means of an extension of the franchise to apply it to those “ without a stake in the country.” Whoever proposed something for the improvement of conditions on democratic, wise, wide lines, has been bitterly opposed throughout our history by the same class of persons as those who are now hysterically demanding that compulsion and conscription shall be applied to persons other than themselves. But even if conscription were democratic in the sense in which they say it is, the last word would not have been said, nor would the mere application of the test of Democracy settle the question for a moment, because everyone who is democratic at heart, and realizes what democratic advancement and democratic principles mean, also realizes that there are some domains in which there is no right on the part of a majority, however great, to coerce a minority however small. If there is one realm more than another in which that fact applies it is in the domain of conscience, and there is no field in which conscience should have fuller play than in connexion with the taking of human life. I shall be told that no compulsion is proposed which does not recognise objections on the part of those who decline on conscientious grounds to go into the firing line, but that fact shows the weakness of the whole scheme. A man may say, “ I object on conscientious grounds.” Who is to analyze a man’s conscience ? It cannot be done. Who is to say whether a man’s conscientious objection is a genuine objection on those grounds1, or whether it is a fictitious one? We must either compel a man by arbitrarily declaring what his conscience is on this matter, or absolve him without knowing what his conscience is. We have a cleft stick once we enter upon the realm of conscientious objections in regard to military service. But I say that conscription is not democratic from any point of view. It rests upon the arbitrary selection by a privileged few of the persons who are to go forward to fight. Those who go forward to fight will not be the privileged few; they will be the mass, from whom and of whom the privileged few will make the selection. The time was peculiarly well chosen for Toryism to apostrophise Democracy. I make no complaint against the Government of this country - possibly there is no room for a Democracy in connexion with the obligation of carrying on a war, but the factremains that Democracy to-day is dead in Australia, as dead as the smuggler suspended on the gibbet at Portland Bill. If we hear the clanking of the chains let us not mistake it for an evidence of life. And if we hear the wheezing of the wind through the parched skin of Democracy, understand that it is but the droning of Toryism pretending that it has life in it. It has none. Most of us have read from time to time of the Democracy of Venice in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, of the secret sendee of that Republic, of the lettres-de-cachet of the French Revolution, and of the British history of the eighteenth century, when men were selected arbitrarily and secretly, and thrust into prison without trial, and without knowing who their accusers were. And it is to the eternal shame of this country that the same thing in greater or lesser degree is practised here to-day.
– That is a gross exaggeration.
– It is absolutely true that nien are seized and interned without knowledge of or means of knowing the crime for which they are incarcerated.
– Enemy subjects.
– British subjects; naturalized subjects, suspected persons. I am not making any charge that is not capable of being sustained.
– I think you must be a pro-German.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– Is that offensive? I withdraw it.
– Possibly the honorable member does not understand how stupidly offensive his remark is.
– It is not half as offensive as your remarks are to us.
– I have not addressed one remark to the right honorable gentleman. I have been speaking of existing laws and Statutes passed by this Parliament, and of regulations promulgated by the present Government.
– You did not oppose them.
– I opposed them all.
– You did not vote against them.
– I voted against them when I had the opportunity, but against some of the regulations I could oppose neither voice nor vote. We talk of Democracy with our right of public meeting gone, and the rights of free speech absolutely abrogated. We talk of the freedom of the press - absolute freedom of one section, and condemnation and censorship of another section when views are expressed which are considered unorthodox. It is a good time, verily, I repeat, for Toryism to apostrophize Democracy. Conscription, I have said, rests upon selection; it cannot be democratic. The whole claim of those who are advocating compulsion is that the present system is wasteful in the sense that men are used up for the mere stoppage of bullets who might be better employed on work of a more intellectual character, whereas, under a system of conscription, we could judiciously select those who were suitable food for cannon, and those suitable for more responsible, more intellectual, and less dangerous and tragic work.
– Do you not think that you would be better employed in persuading the Germans to desist from shooting our men ?
– Does the honorable member think that my persuasion would have any weight with the Germans?
– It would have just as much weight with the Germans as it has with us.
– I know that my persuasion has no weight with the honorable members for Kooyong and Henty, but it has a considerable amount of weight, I am pleased to say, with a large section of Australian people who are entitled to be heard. I read the other day of a gentleman, who recently occupied, if he does not now, a representative position as a chief officer in the Australian Natives Association, and who said, “I have seen these young fellows in Bourkestreet with cigarettes in their mouths and smiles on their faces. I would sjambok them into the service if I had my way.” It would not be a matter of persuasion with them, but a physical act of compulsion. He would apply the stockwhip to them in order to compel them to enlist. Another man said, ‘‘Put the letter C upon the arms of those conscripts whom we hope to get? No, I would print the C upon their foreheads, so that the world might know that they were conscripts.” The suggestion may be good to this extent, that, as soon as we apply conscription to this country it will put the brand of C on the fair face of this nation. Some of us have been reading the history of the coal strike in the Old Country, and we read that the Duke of Somewhere and another belted knight said that those men who struck in the supply of coal during war time should be lined against the wall and shot like traitors. That is the argument of Democracy applied to those men. Perhaps they should be shot, but those gilded and titled gentlemen of the Old World, those monopolists whose monopoly and oppression have been the curse of the country,’ should have longer memories of the history of the coal mines of England. Would they like to forget that history? Are they acquainted with that distinguished representative of the literature of , our Allies, Victor Hugo, who has written some touching passages about the men in the coal mines of England who sweated and starved beyond belief, even sucked the coal to alleviate the pangs of their sufferings; of those women whose children, born in the mines, never lived to see the light of day; of women who, being mothers of only a few days, were chained to sledges and compelled to drag them in the dark, dank places underground. Have those noble lords forgotten those facts? If there are some unionists in England who remember them, and understand the abyss from which the workers of England have come in the coal mines, if they realize what organization and unionism have done; if they appreciate the extent of the improvement from complete degradation up to the moderate comfort which they now enjoy - not one step of which has been voluntarily conceded, but every step of which has been won by the sweat of their brows and the blood of their hands - if there are men in England who realize those things, and dread a reversion to that past as they dread the very devil himself, then line them against the wall to be shot, and smash in their faces the Prussian fist, not made in Germany, may be, but approved, subsidized, and applauded by the hereditary aristocracy of Great Britain. According to the British measure, it is proposed to apply conscription to voteless and voiceless youths of eighteen years of age. It is the very depth of shame that boys who have no vote should be compelled, at the point of the bayonet, to render up their lives whether they will or no. While conscription is shameful in any circumstances, the application of it to youths of that age is doubly and trebly shameful. When I hear of men in middle life, hale, strong, and able, telling us that this nation is in deadly peril, that our wives and children and families may be outraged and destroyed as they were in Belgium, and that the time is opportune to apply conscription to unmarried men and youths of eighteen, but that the time has not come for its application to ourselves, I wonder what sense of manliness animates those men? Is it possible that men can go upon the public platform and prophesy that dire evils may come upon us if we do not apply compulsion to our youths, knowing and intending in their hearts that it will not apply to any one of themselves?
– That is a gross slander on four of our members who have gone, or are going, to the front.
– The honorable member occupies a perfectly safe position.
– I would go to-morrow if I had the chance.
– There is always that hypothesis, always that same “ if “ - if I were only a little younger, if I were only a little stronger, if I were not married. The enemy is coming at us, our wives and children are threatened; therefore, let us get behind their skirts and say, “We are married men, and cannot be expected to fight. Let this youth go. Drag him out of his home and away from his mother and family, but I am a married man, and shall remain here.” I referred earlier in my remarks to that safe sanctuary of marriage, which enables middle-aged, able-bodied men, who have enjoyed a comfortable life in the past, to insure it in the future at the expense of others.
– Anything that will keep you out of the fighting is all you are worrying about.
– There is no trouble about my position. I lay no claim to any special credit in this regard, beyond this : that at the very outset of the war I had the courage to express an honest opinion, and to candidly admit that the country had nothing to expect from me so far as fighting was concerned, however gladly and willingly I would be prepared, and am still prepared, to reader assistance in other ways quite on a par with that of those honorable members who are so poignantly annoyed with what I have to say.
– Did you not offer to be undertaker for the honorable member for Balaclava ?
– Yes, there was something of the kind, it is quite true. I have no intention of referring to my little controversy with that honorable gentleman, because it is past and gone, and I hope there is no ill-feeling remaining between us. That distinguished leader of the Labour party in New South Wales, Mr. Holman, to whom reference has already been made, was good enough to say that the honorable member for Balaclava in Australia was worth 5,000 or 10,000, or some other large number of men at the front; and I mention this to point an argument. A little whilebefore, Mr. Holman had had the cool audacity to publicly declare that it was a matter for intense regret that almost the whole of the undergraduates and graduates of a certain university had voluntered for the front, because he regarded them as the future leaders of the people. He inferred that under the present wasteful system we allowed intellectual men of light and leading to leave our shores, while there were so many others who could fight quite as well and were available under another system, but who could never be leaders. That is a fine sentiment for a Labour man; and well may it have met the applause of honorable members opposite and their friends outside.
– Did it?
– Yes ; the utterance was published far and wide.
– That does not constitute applause.
– Here we have the doctrine of making a wise selection. Let the university students, as men of light and leading, remain to fill those distinguished positions for which their qualities so admirably fit them, and send forward other men, who are equally good meat for the cannon, to do the fighting. A bank manager said to me the other day, “ It is to be, hoped that under any system of conscription or compulsion we shall be able to provide that those men who have a stake in the country, and whose talents and education peculiarly fit them to guide the destinies of this Commonwealth, shall not be put into the fighting line, while there are so many others who can equally well discharge the duty of fighting.” I referred a while ago to a gentleman who was going to use the horsewhip on young fellows in Bourkestreet or elsewhere who “ smoked a cigarette and smiled.” Once, however, we come to selection, it will not be only those who venture to “ smoke a cigarette and smile “ - that heinous offence of modern times - who may be selected. There will be found some difference of opinion as to whether the selection shall be made from those in Bourke-street who “ smoke a cigarette and smile,” or from those on the grandstands of our racecourses, who “smile” at the performances of horses which they have, with more or less success, backed at admirably attended race meetings
– I have seen you amongst the latter lot.
– Certainly my honorable friend has seen me there, and he has also, perhaps, seen me “ smoke a cigarette and smile,” for I must plead guilty to such offences at various times in my wayward youth. It may be that when we come to make a selection with the horsewhip, we may venture to select some of those ardent conscriptionists in faultless linen, who, to my knowledge, occupy regularly seats at one of those very attractive but somewhat bawdy shows which nightly attract large audiences in this city. Once we admit the right of selection there will, as I say, be found very wide difference of opinion. The principle of selection is undemocratic, and selection lies at the basis of conscription. One word about the conscription of wealth, of which the right honorable member for Swan spoke this afternoon. That honorable member has assured us that we already have conscription of wealth. Of course, he says so; and why should he not, when the Argus, the Age, and the conscriptionist press Australia over have told him so? I absolutely dissent from the doctrine that the conscription of wealth can justify the conscription of human life. I absolutely repudiate the doctrine that one man may come with his money-bags and buy himself free, while another man, who cannot purchase his freedom is compelled to go forward to the slaughter. Some members of my own party frequently demand as a condition of conscription of human life that we should have conscription of wealth. To that I do not assent, because I hold that the two things are not equivalent. I do say, however, that it is characteristic of the times in which we live, and of the gross materialism of the times, when men can venture to come forward and say, “ I will buy myself out of the necessity of surrendering my life,” while others applaud him for so purchasing his freedom by so colossal a sacrifice.
– Where does that obtain ?
– It does not obtain at all, but I warn my honorable friend that, horrible as the thought may be to him, it may come to pass, because by no other conceivable possibility can conscription ever be applied to this country. My own belief is that it is impossible, in any circumstances, that it will be applied. It is unthinkable that it can be applied otherwise than on the basis that if there is conscription of life there must at least be conscription of wealth; but I maintain that the latter is by no means an adequate equivalent. We are told that we have conscription of wealth, and we have. We have war loans at i per cent. - gilded securities and the highest interest. My friend, the Treasurer/ has congratulated the people on their loyalty and patriotism in subscribing to the war loans. Many of the subscribers have acted from the highest motives, and all honour to them; but it is an affront and an insult to those who have given their lives, and to the women who have given their sons, to talk about the patriotism of those who have invested at an interest higher than that obtainable on any other fixed deposit. As to sacrificing salaries, let me quote from a journal of which honorable members on the other side do not speak respectfully. I speak of the Labour Call, which in a recent issue gave the following information : -
A return lias been presented to the British Parliament which gives the salaries paid to law officers of the Crown for the past ten years. This return shows that in four years Sir W. Robson, now Lord Robson, received £55,596. He afterwards became a Lord Justice at a salary of £6.500 a year, and after less than three years’ actual work received a pension of £3,500 a year, which he still enjoys. Sir R. Isaacs, now Lord Chief Justice of England at £S,000 a year - a position which occupies so little of his time that he is able to visit America for months at a stretch, and also to act as adviser to McKenna at the Treasury - served the nation for five years as a law officer, during which period he was paid £55,479. In one year he received £16,672. Sir John Symon, M.P., who recently resigned from the post of Home Secretary at £5,000 a year salary, served the nation as a law officer for five years, and was paid £62,772. These figures can be multiplied many times over, and although we have only dealt with figures relating to Liberals, we are quite certain Tory lawyers and judges are equally fortunate and equally patriotic in drawing huge sums of money from the public exchequer. These are they who preach “ economy “ to the workers.
That quotation, it is true, applies in part to a period before the war, but a little while ago I read a complete list of salaries at the present time, and they are on precisely the same lines. These men have not sacrificed a single penny piece.
– Are they paid in legal fees or salary?
– And how much do these men make at the Bar?
– How much of the money they make at the Bar will go to the war fund ?
– They can make £10,000 a year easily.
– Of course. That only proves my contention that they make no real sacrifice. As to war profits, we have had a proposal from the Treasurer, who is a Radical at heart and associated with Radical legislation. I am not blaming the Treasurer, nor am I blaming his Government, because I think they have done well to propose a tax on war profits. I congratulate them on that proposal. I do not know how they mean to ascertain exactly what war profits are. If they can do so, and they claim they are going to, upon what just principle, at a time when it is proposed to take the lives of our youth, do they leave one-half of the profits of war with the men who have made them as result of the fearful sufferings of others? That certainly does not, in full measure, do credit to a Labour Government. I believe this will be admitted by every honorable member who examines his conscience, quite apart from the fact that most of us have relatives at the front in one capacity or another, though I deprecate the attitude of those who are constantly boasting that they have given one or more sons to the war.
– It is something to be proud of !
– It is- but the lives were not theirs to give. The credit belongs to the men themselves. To those who run the risk, who take the responsibility, who bear the burden, it is to them that credit is due, and to them alone. Those who remain at home and seek reflected glory by boasting that they have given this one and that one to the war are, to my mind, earning applause in an illicit manner.
– It suggests domestic conscription.
– Apart from that consideration, I put it to the consciences of individual members whether it is not a fact that, once you get outside the wage-earning class of the community, and reach those of whom I have been reading - the wealthy land-owner, the wealthy manufacturer, and the men who, the honorable member for Hindmarsh, thinking to score a point, says make a stupendous income at the Bar or by some other profession - those outside the wage-earning class, have made no real sacrifice whatever in connexion with this war. They have given money, it is true; they have given goods, and, comparatively speaking, they have given generously; that is to say, they have, in many cases, given much, and will give more. Their response to the appeals that have been made to them have been creditable to Australia. Though they have done that, they have made no real sacrifice. Examine the case of the others - the case of the family of the man whose daily wage was barely sufficient to keep body and soul together; the case of the dependent mother, who, from day to day, and from week to week, can. scarcely make ends meet. The sacrifice those people have made is incomparably greater than the doles - I will not call them that - the generous offerings of the richer folk to whom I have referred. It is the poorer classes of the community, in their vast number, upon whom the other classes, in their smaller number, with their greater wealth, and lesser sacrifice, propose to bind the fetters and manacles of conscription. We sent at the beginning of the war 20,000 men to represent Australia. I care not whether it was this side or that side that first sent men, all parties were united in the desire to have the Commonwealth well represented in this great international conflict. We sent 20,000 spontaneously. It was good. We sent 50,000; it was generous. We sent 100,000; this was admirable. We sent 150,000; this was unparalleled, marvellous. We sent 200,000, and words fail to describe the sacrifice that Australia has made. Now it is proposed to send 250,000, and there is no sign of stopping at that. Those have been volunteers - men who have rushed generously forward. On the top of this splendid work by Australia as a volunteer nation, the coercionists, with their love of coercion for its own sake, say, “ We will rob Australia of her fair name as a voluntary nation, and will brand her with the name of conscript, so that she may go down to history as a nation which had to be driven to fight for the Empire of which she formed a part.” It was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition that a referendum would settle this question.
– That was the suggestion from the honorable member’s side.
– The honorable member for Grey said, “A referendum would settle this matter,” and the honorable member for Parramatta replied, “ Tes, let us take a referendum.” . I say, take a referendum, if you will, but let it be a referendum of those who are really interested - of those who, under a system of compulsion, might be compelled to serve.
– A referendum of those who do not want to go !
– Yes, of those whodo not want to go, as well as of those who are willing to go, but a referendum of those of military age and eligible for military service. Are we going to ask for the votes of those who know before the die is cast that they are secure, whatever may be determined, that no compulsion will apply to them? Shall we take the vote of those amiable ladies who have plastered the outside of my office with “ Vote ‘Conscription “ cards?
– Would the honorable member deprive of the right to vote the mothers of those who have fought?
– Shall we call upon every person like my honorable friend, who has no intention of going, and knows that he would not be accepted?
– His son is going, and is in the gallery in khaki tonight.
– I am not going to talk about sons and brothers. Many of our sons and brothers are in khaki - seme not in the gallery.
– My boys are there, and I object to them having to fight for men like the honorable member.
– My honorable friend need not affect an indignation which he could not feel if he tried. There is not one of us who has not friends and relations in khaki, and in the danger zone. There is not one of us who does not wish to see this accursed war brought to an honorable and speedy end. But let us not be guilty of cant and humbug in regard to it.
– Let the honorable member tell us what he means by “ an honorable end.”
– Let him tell us how we are going to achieve that end.
– The honorable member for Gippsland expects me to bring into the debate greater wisdom than the counsellors of the nation possess. I do not profess to be able to do what he suggests.
– The honorable member takes the responsibility of advising men not to go to the front. How is the war to be won without men?
– Neither here nor outside have I done what the honorable member says. He lies on the bench in a semi-somnolent condition, and brings against me an accusation in which there is not a scintilla of truth. I have never advised any one not to go.
– The honorable member does not understand the tenor of his own speech.
– Yes, he does. He said earlier in the evening that defeat would be better than conscription.
– I did not say that; but I would not undertake to assert the contrary. Our nation has fought most of the civilized nations of the world, and in fighting them it has cursed them. What we may have gained by our history of international conflict, I do not pretend to say, but I suggest that we have gained nothing by the cursing. I have always deprecated anything tending to keep alive after this war the festering sore of international hatred. If we review the history of our country, and of other countries, we see that when a war is over every one is keenly desirous of burying the horrible hatchet. Why should responsible men speak of maintaining the existing hatred against Germany long after the war is over ? To do so is likely to prolong this terrible struggle, and thus to cause the destruction of more of our sons and brothers. I was pleased to notice the lofty and honorable tone adopted by the British Prime Minister in this regard. It must have been very disturbing to the violent jingoes of the Empire when he made his manly statement as to the ultimate aims and objects of the war. As he stated then, they represent something far short of what has been claimed by persons in this community - the champions of international hatred, prejudices, and recriminations. He scotched for all time “the foolish notion of planting a military garrison in the heart of Europe, and holding 150,000,000 or 160,000,000 white persons as a subject race. The absurd notion of introducing Prussianism to kill Prussianism has, I hope, been laid to rest for all time by the statesman-like speech to which I refer. In everything I have said here and elsewhere, I have been influenced chiefly by the tremendous loss of life entailed by war, and the agony of the relatives, in the uncertainty as to their fate, or the cruel knowledge that the worst has happened to desolate their homes. My object has always been to say something, in however slight degree, which may minimize the horrible cost. Neither here nor elsewhere have I spoken without testimony to the splendid courage of the troops who have gone abroad to represent us. In very few instances have the men brought discredit upon themselves or their comrades in arms. Where there have been indiscretions, as in Melbourne and elsewhere, the blame should rest, not so much on the soldiers themselves as on those misguided persons who appear to think that everything a soldier does should be the subject of praise, and that no action of his merits censure or blame. I do not propose to address myself to other parts of the Budget, because I am of opinion that the matter of transcendent importance is the war. The subject should and must engross the major part of our attention; but, as I said at the outset, not to the exclusion of the consideration of those works which are necessary to keep the Commonwealth going as a productive and progressive country, so that when the struggle is over it may be able to take its place among the nations as a free people, not hampered for all time, or permanently crippled by this fearful scourge of war.
– I wish to quote a remark made by the last speaker in the early part of his speech, when he said that it would be better that we should suffer defeat than have conscription.
– I did not say so.
– The honorable member said that some things were worse than conscription, and defeat was not one of them.
– Whatever the honorable member’s oratory may have meant, that, at any rate, was the root idea of his remarks. He may not have used the words that he has denied, though when he was challenged from the Opposition corner he did not deny having used them, but the whole purport of his speech was in one direction. I give him credit for honesty of purpose in stating fearlessly the views he holds, and he stated them well; but if it was the best case that could be put up for the voluntary system, it was indeed a poor one. May I ask the honorable member whether, if we cannot get sufficient men under the voluntary system to win the war, he would propose to surrender rather than compel men to fight? At great length, and very eloquently, he has put the case for the liberty of the subject, forgetting altogether that this liberty, about which he boasts so much, and of which he claims to be one of the champions, has been won only by the blood of our ancestors. Our community is divided on the issue of conscription. There is division in this chamber, but the line of division is not drawn from the gangway to the Speaker’s chair. Men on both sides of the chamber feel in their hearts that if we intend to preserve the liberties of our race we must put the last ounce of effort of which we are capable into the fight, or have, what some people consider will be the better thing, German “ kultur.” The maxim of this Government has been laid down and proclaimed abroad, namely, that Australia is prepared to put the last man and the last shilling into the fight, and we have an army of 250,000 men, a magnificent effort for Australia, whose deeds will ring through the ages and help to make the traditions of our race; but like many other honorable members, though I have always been in favour of voluntary service, twelve months ago, before the talk of conscription arose, I felt from a very close study of the information we were able to obtain concerning the war, that the time had come for a change of method. The Italians say that the British lose every battle but the last. That is because we have our liberty treasured by the whole community to such an extent that we are not prepared to tackle men who are not so highly cultured in this matter of individual liberty. We did not expect that the German Emperor would be so mad as to plunge Europe into war - some people did - and when he did we had to realize that we must fight if we wish to preserve our existence as a race, and the existence of another race, which has done more than the British in this war, the most democratic race on the face of the earth, a people with as broad traditions and beliefs of liberty as any that the honorable member for Batman holds. I am speaking of Prance, and Prance has conscribed every man in the community, and sent him into the firing line or to some other part of the military organization, in order that he may do what he can to preserve the existence of his country. If Prance is beaten, does any one doubt that she will be overrun by hordes of Germans. Germany will not be satisfied with having Alsace and Lorraine. She will want another slice of French territory in which to spread German culture. Nietzsche, in one of his writings, said that the race that does not prepare for war, and does not admire war, is on the decline, and that, as other nations had risen to greatness, culture, and liberty in this way, the time had come, if Germany was to retain her place in the sun, for Germans to worship the culture of war. These doctrines were promulgated in the universities of Germany.
– Have you heard of Dr. Liebknecht?
– Yes, he is the leader of the party which is represented in this country by my honorable friend ; but the rank and file of his party have discarded him. In the last division in the Reichstag he had only about thirty members out of his whole flock to support him. If a free and untrammelled vote were taken in this House, my friend would be in about the same minority.
– Had Dr. Liebknecht been controlling the destinies of Germany, there would have been no war.
– I admit that fact, but it is useless to reach out for the moon. To endeavour to improve conditions under which we exist is all very well, but we must face facts as they are. The men who are responsible, the men who know the situation, those who are in control here, do not sit down with any feeling of lightheartedness. The gravity of their responsibilities sits heavily upon them, but how much more heavily must it sit on the shoulders of the men who are in control of the destinies of the war at the other end of the world ? How often has it been said that the presence of another division of Australians, when our men stormed the heights of Gaba Tepe, would have led to the capture of the peninsula and put the British in Constantinople to-day, saving thousand’s of lives. History teaches us that wherever there has been a soft-hearted general, afraid’ to risk his men, disaster has fallen, and more lives have been sacrificed. The general in command at Gallipoli asked the British Government for 100,000 men - he got 25,000; and after the magnificent fight that our men put up in storming the Turkish trenches there were so few of them left that they were unable to maintain the captured ground. Had supports arrived at the right time there is no doubt in the minds of the men who were there that the British would have been in possession of Constantinople, the loss of life at Kut-el-Amara would have been saved, and the ignominious surrender there would not have occurred.
– I can see that the British have- lost a big general in the honorable member.
– I would like to have had the ability to be classed as a British -general. Nothing would give me greater pride than that honour. Unfortunately, my position is that of one of the humble rank and file. I believe in British traditions and in the predominance of the British race - I do not care who comes second, but I wish to see my race on top, and it will not be put on top by the shirkers and cold-footers in this country. There are three classes - those who wish to win the war and believe that the voluntary system will prove sufficient, those who wish to win the war and believe that it will be necessary to have compulsion in order to do so, and those who do not wish to win the war, and think that we will be better off under Germany, and on the platform call the soldiers of this community murderers. The proper place for the third class is against a stone wall, with a platoon armed with loaded rifles facing them. If I were in a responsible position, I would not hesitate to deal with the traitors of this community as they should be dealt with. In the time of war, and in the face of the enemy’s bullets, prattle about free speech is the cloak of the coward. It is an argument addressed to this community in normal times and conditions, but to-day we are not in normal times and conditions. “We have to face things as they are. The facts are that we are opposed by a nation better organized than any other nation is or ever has been, every man of which is a soldier doing his utmost to preserve the existence of his race. After a year and nine months of war, our enemies are fighting on our territory everywhere. We have been fed by our newspapers, not so much through their fault, but because of the lack of information supplied by the censors, with statements that we have been winning here, and winning there, and progressing elsewhere, when, as a matter of fact, we have not been progressing except backwards, and the fighting has been on our own territory from the very start. Yet we have had the spectacle of men in high places, both at Home and abroad, pleading with men to enlist and do their duty to their country. I contend that there is on every man in the community receiving the benefits of its laws and the privileges of its society a duty to shoulder a rifle and bayonet at the proper time, in order to maintain those privileges and benefits, not only for himself, but also for his. children and the generations that come after him. I am a conscriptionist - a recently converted conscriptionist. I am not one of those who would limit conscription to men of 41 or 45 years of age. I would apply it to men up to 60 years of age. I do not say that the men between 45 and 60 would be as good as those between 25 and 45. I know they would not. But there are plenty of men, between the ages of 45 and 60 who are quite capable of doing their share in the trenches. To-day the limit for enlistment is fixed at 45 years of age, and if a man over that age wishes to enlist he has to lie. There should be no necessity for men to lie if they wish to do their duty. There may be good military reasons why men over 45 should’ not be enlisted, because, on the law of averages, men over that age are not as good as younger men. But when every man obtainable is required by the country, the law of averages should not apply in that connexion. I am reminded of a story told of a colonel who asked a man in the trenches his age. The man replied, “Forty-four.” “But your right age,” said the colonel. “ Sixty-two, sir.” I see wounded men walking about the streets who have not seen forty-five for many a long year; the doctors and recruiting sergeants must have winked the other eye when those men enlisted. But they had in them the spirit of the British race, they were determined” to do their share for their country, and they lied for the purpose. Australia has to-day in its organization, in Egypt, France and Britain, numbers of men, qualified in every way to be in the trenches, doing clerical work. The honorable member for Batman abhors a bullet. He does not like the sight of a gun or the sound of a shot, but he could do something for his country aa a clerk. For those men who raise conscientious objections, positions could be found so that they could do something for their country, even if it were only in clerical positions. I do not believe it is worth while sending a coward into the fighting line; he is a menace. But there is no reason why he should not give some sort of service when his country is in danger. There are plenty of things he could do and thus relieve better men for work in the firing line. The position in Europe to-day is that Austria and Germany have 620,000 men coming of fighting age per annum, and France and Britain have 450,000, or, expressed in army corps, Austria and Germany have thirteen as against the nine of France and Britain. And the difference between nine and thirteen army corps in a stern tussle might be found to be very great. I should like to compliment the honorable member for Cook on the speech he made last night. The honorable member has taken considerable interest in and done much valuable work in connexion with recruiting, and he showed by the figures which he presented to the House last night that Australia is 41,000 men short of the number promised by the Government to the Imperial authorities. ,Surely those men who desire to win the war and believe in the voluntary system should very seriously consider the effect of those figures. When the Government offered the Imperial authorities, in the latter part of November last, a further 50,000 men, and that offer was gratefully accepted, it was promised that those men would be in the fighting line by June next, after having had three months’ training in Australia. The figures quoted by the honorable member for Cook showed that either we have the reinforcements that we ought to have, or we have the new division which we offered, but we have not both. We want both. To-day the first casualty list after a long interval has come to hand. Such lists will come frequently henceforward, and what is the good of commencing to train our men in the middle of the fight? . We hear on every hand that we are bound to win, because we have always won in the past. What sort of argument is that when we are opposed to a nation organized as Germany is ? We shall win only if we have the numbers and the munitions at the right time, and if we miss that right time, if it finds us still training our men or still discussing the adoption of national service, our effort will be too late. If the time should come, which God forbid, that the British nation were defeated, in what position would Australia be ? We are a handful of people occupying a continent. The honorable member for Batman said that the British people have fought with nearly all nations on earth, and that when the wars were over they commenced blackguarding them again. That may be; no doubt the other nations blackguarded us also. The main point is that we should preserve our nation on top. The policy of the British race has always been to see that the same freedom of action which is given ,to its own citizens is extended to other nations. There is no instance in history of British tyranny over small nations ; and we are engaged in this present war for the preservation of the liberty of the small nations and to insure that they shall be able to develop their own aims and ideals in their own way, and not be trampled under foot by the big bully with the greatest strength. The day of retribution will come, we hope, when there will be dealt out to Germany the treatment it has dealt out to the smaller nations. But that day will come only if the best efforts of the British, French, and Russian nations are made before the time is too late. Here is an illustration which a recruiting sergeant quoted the other day of the reasons why some men do not enlist. A boy of nineteen told him ,that he was prepared to go to the front with his father’s consent, but not without. That was a legitimate excuse. At a later date the sergeant, in looking through the remainder of his cards, came upon .the same name, which led him to the same house. On this occasion, the interview was with a man fortytwo years of age, the father of the boy. The father said, “ I have no objection to going if all the single and young men go first.” So that that man, who was prepared to go when the single men had gone, refused to allow his own son to go, and thereby established a position which would enable him to escape his obvious duty to his country. The only point in regard to which I agree with the speech of the honorable member for Batman was his objection to sending boys of eighteen into the firing-line. A boy at the age of eighteen or nineteen has not properly formed the bone of his body, and I would prefer that no man should be sent to ,the front under twenty or twenty-one years of age. It is laying too great a strain on those youths to send them into the firing-line; but if I am asked what they have done, I must answer that they are the very cream of our race. It may be because they are hotheaded, but they have done work at the front which will stand comparison with the work of any men of our race. Looking at the matter as responsible representatives of the people, however, we would be well advised, when there are go many men in the community who have refused to join the ranks, to decide that boys between eighteen and twenty or twenty-one years of age should not be allowed to go into the firing-line until after men of fuller age and fitter condition. The advantage of selection under a conscription scheme, to which the honorable member, for Batman is so much opposed, is apparent if the matter is viewed with common sense. Suppose every member of the community were under a conscription law such as is now being introduced in Britain. Do honorable members mean to say that those who are charged with the selection of the men would pick out the sons of the working men and reject the sons of the well-to-do classes ?
An Honorable Member. - There is that danger, to some extent.
– I would make the law so clear on that point that there would be no danger of such a happening. If the advice of our medical experts were that men between, say, 25 and 30, were better fitted for active service than were men between 20 and 25, those men should be sent first; then the men from 30 to 35, 35 to 40, and 40 to 45. If necessary, we could turn back and take the men between 20 and 25, and afterwards the married men in the same order. The objection to sending married men to the front is not because of their individual responsibility; it is the fact that their deaths saddle the nation with a greater responsibility for the maintenance of widows and children than is entailed by the death of single men. The reason is national, not individual; and that is why it is urged that married men should not be asked to go before single men. At the same time, it is no reason why married men should not go voluntarily.
– There are some single men whose responsibilities are as great as those of married men.
– Of course. I have heard of married men who have volunteered for active service, and have been glad to get away. I know of a man who volunteered for service, and was rejected because he had corns on his feet. Some one offered him a cure for corns, and the reply was, “ Come to me when the war is over.” There is another aspect of the question. I admit that deep down in my heart I have always had the feeling that the conscript was an inferior being to a British soldier; and we have all, I think, experienced the same feeling, while some of us still retain it. But, after all, is this not one of the tilings we drank in with our mother’s milk ? Were we not taught in early childhood, and at school, that the Britisher was as good as three Germans or any other three foreigners any day ? Has the same sort of thing not been said during this war, and quoted everywhere? If we wish to know the truth, let us look at the men in the fighting line on the side of France to-day, every one of whom is a conscript. Let us also remember the men who are fighting on the side of our enemy, the Germans, who are also conscripts. When we read our own accounts of their attacks on Verdun, where they were shot down in thousands, only to have their places immediately filled, can we say that these men, though conscripts, are less courageous than the volunteer Britishers? If it were the fact that they are less courageous we should have been triumphant long ago.
– If the fight were in Australia we should all be conscripts.
– We should; and we are now fighting for the preservation of this country. I, for one, believe this is a country worth fighting for; and men like the Postmaster-General and myself would be in the fighting line if we were allowed to go. I question the allegation of the honorable member for Batman that the employers in this country, who are “ buying the labour,” as he puts it, of halfadozen men, are in favour of conscription, for I know numbers who are as much opposed to the policy as the honorable member himself, and I know of families - and not families of working men, but of men who have any amount of money - of which, out of six sons, not one have gone to the front. In one case a woman asked my advice as to whether she should allow her sons to go. When I told her that that was a matter for herself, and not for my advice, she asked who would look after the farm if they did go, for somebody must do the work. Such people as these, however, are quite prepared to allow other men’s sons to fight for them; and the difficulties of selection to which the honorable member for Batman referred would be got over by selecting young men like these, in addition to others, to do their duty to the country. If we expect to succeed in the war, we must meet the organization of Germany, which has been building up for forty or fifty years, by similar organization on our side. We have put forth efforts of which we are all proud, and many of us would have liked to take an active personal share. We have to remember, however, that we are sharing the glory of about 250,000 men who are doing the actual fighting. I should here like to quote a little story which I gathered from a letter written by an Anzac man to his father after his return to Egypt. This young soldier there saw the latest recruits who had arrived from Australia, and, as one who had put in six months in the trenches of Gallipoli, he was naturally interested. One of the new recruits, who, by the way, were dubbed the “ deep thinkers “ by the original Anzac brigade, appeared with a flower on the cuff of his coat. The big Anzac boy looked at the flower for a moment, and then asked, “ What is that for!” The recruit replied, “That is the flower of the Australian Army.” “ Is it?” said the soldier, “ then all I can say is that it has taken a mighty long time to bloom.” There are very many “flowers of the Australian Army” here that have not yet started to bloom, and, in fact, have not yet been planted; and if the feeling of the people and of this Parliament is as I believe it to be, our obvious duty is to organize all our resources, not next month or the month after, but to-day. That is our clear duty; and if it is done, I have no fear of the result, in view of the work that has already been accomplished. When the war is over it is to be hoped that in the settling up the nations which have been despoiled by the invader will receive that justice to which they are entitled. They can never get the compensation they deserve, but if we depart a little from the traditions of the past, and use the iron-hand on the tyrannous foes who started the war, so as to make it impossible for them to build a navy and maintain an army to threaten the peace of the world, there will be a chance of peace and good-will on earth to all men.
.- I do not desire to say much, but I hold that when a question has become recognised as a national and burning one the people have the right to know on which side their representatives stand . My remarks will be principally in opposition to the introduction of conscription in Australia. The fact that conscription operated in great European countries prior to the war, and that those countries are practically responsible for the present position, is, in my opinion, no reason or justification for a system of conscription in Australia. The honorable member for Henty referred to the fact that a French conscript soldier is no less courageous than a volunteer, and said the same remark may be applied to the German soldier. I am quite prepared to admit that in the wars of the past no volunteer soldiers have faced death with greater bravery than have the conscript soldiers of Europe to-day; but we have to remember that there was a special reason for the adoption of conscription in Europe. Past history shows that, as the result of certain international difficulties, those countries had to be prepared at any moment to fly at each other’s throats. For years there had been a feeling of distrust existing between France and Germany; and it was recognised by the world that a conflict between those countries was inevitable; and while Germany was bringing her great military machine to a state of perfection, France was also preparing to meet her. The United Kingdom has never before been a conscript nation, and I am prepared to say that the system of defence adopted there prior to the war was sufficient to insure her own safety. The Navy was relied on as the principal arm of de- fence. While the great Powers of Europe confined themselves practically to the improvement of the military side, the United Kingdom devoted all her time and money to the building up of what is recognised as practically an invincible Navy.
– Does the honorable member think that that Navy would be invincible against the whole building power of Europe?
– I am speaking of the conditions prior to the war, and showing the distinction between the policies adopted by the Old Country and the continent of Europe. England relied solely on her naval strength as a means of protection against invasion. At the inception of the war, the total strength of the British Army was, I believe, 160,000 or 190,000 men, whereas to-day I should say there are 160,000 officers alone. England entered into this war, not because Germany threatened to invade her, but because of the invasion of Belgium by Germany. I have not at all times acclaimed the policy “ my country right or wrong.” There have been occasions when Britain has been the cause of war unjustly; but I believe that in this case the Government of the United Kingdom took the action that we as Australians would have expected her to take. The honorable member for Henty, in dealing with the speech of the honorable member for Batman, asked what was the position of Dr. Liebknecht to-day. The honorable member for Batman has the honour to belong to a movement that is not confined to Australia, but is world-wide. Dr. Liebknecht was the honoured and recognised leader of that movement in Germany. He was the leader of the working-class movement in Germany, and at election after election appealed to the people of the country to return him and his party to power. The first plank in his platform has been antimilitarism, getting rid of the crushing weight of Prussian militarism. In cooperation with Bismarck, the grandfather of the Kaiser brought in legislation declaring the working-class organizations of the country illegal because of their open opposition to the military class. The leaders of the workingclass movement were put into gaol, and their organizations were declared unlawful. But the more oppressive the measures applied to the movement, the more powerful it grew, until it was recognised that it could not be crushed by the oppression of its leaders. The working class was gradually gaining a legal status in the community. On every appeal to the people those at the head of the movement advocated a policy of antimilitarism, of anti-Prussianism, and on each occasion of late they have gone back into the national Parliament with their follow ing increased to the extent of millions. The figures of the last election for the national Parliament of Germany showed that, had the electoral boundaries been clear, the Socialistic party would have dominated the Reichstag. But there has been no alteration of the constituencies of the German Parliament since 1876, and 130,000 votes are required to return a working-class representative in Berlin, although 8,000 votes return a Conservative member in other parts of the country. It will be remembered for all time to the credit of Dr. Liebknecht that he recognises that his country is now playing the part of the oppressor, and that he has had the moral courage to declare his opinion in its national Parliament, denouncing the German Government for bringing this curse upon civilization. I give all honour te the man for doing so. If he had been in power, with the support of the workingclass representatives of Germany, the war would not have happened, and the great military machine, which it had taken so long to prepare, would not have been launched against civilization. We have been asked what has become of the millions of Socialists in Germany who were pledged to support anti-militarism. How was it they did not revolt on the declaration of war ? There was no revolt, because of this accursed system of conscription. The people were called into the ranks oi the army at a moment’s notice. So many men were following Dr. Liebknecht and his party prior to the war, and were pledged against the policy of the Kaiser and his advisers, that with a reasonable opportunity a revolution might have been expected had conscription not prevented it.
– In France, where they have conscription, the Socialists rushed into the war of their own free will.
– France was invaded, and any one who has the spirit of a ma a will obey the call of his country when an invasion takes place.
– Why have Dr. Liebknecht’s followers expelled him?
– Once the war commenced, and blood was spilt, that ism which rises above all others, nationalism, took the place of Socialism. The Germans felt that their country was in danger, a,nd supported it. In my opinion, the military machine of Prussia has been launched against practically the rest of the civilized world. Belgium, France, Russia, ai d brave little Servia withstood it, and ihe Government of the United Kingdom went to the help of those countries. ben that was known, the Government of this country declared that it would assist the Motherland, and offered a force of 2’J.OOO Australian soldiers. Some of us thought that it would have difficulty in giving effect to the offer, but so great was the response to the call for volunteers that, as the honorable member for Batman said, our Army has leapt from 20,0^0 to 200,000, and is now well on the wy to 250,000. No member of this Parliament-, and probably no man in the United Kingdom, can say when the war is likely to terminate; it may be three months hence, or it may be a year hence. Under the voluntary system recruits are offering at the rate of 9,000 a month, and at Mie sad of the present year Australia will have 300,000 men under arms. The country has every reason to be proud of -..hat it has done, and is prepared to do, and we should not place a blot upon that effort by sanctioning the pernicious system of conscription which has operated so disastrously in Europe. I am of the opinion that there is no justification for the clamour for the legalization of conscription by this Parliament. As a citizen of Australia, I take this opportunity to express the debt of gratitude that I think we owe to the people of the Mother Country. Every night since the war began we have been able to place our heads on our pillows feeling absolutely secure from the invasion of our foes. That feeling of security has been due, not to anything that we have done for ourselves, but solely to thb knowledge that there floats on the ocean for our protection a navy which is practically invincible. Our knowledge of the great strength of the British Navy gives us the security which we enjoy. Honorable gentlemen will remember a magazine, of which I believe a copy was sent to each one of us. This publication, The Candid, which was issued in February, 1914, about five months prior to the outbreak of the war, and which claimed that its writers were selected from men holding recognised positions among the writers on important subjects, contained an article written by a well-known authority on economics. This article pointed out that at the previous general elections in Great Britain, prominent British statesmen, as the result of their pledges to their constituents, were returned to the House of Commons pledged to oppose by every means at their disposal any increase in naval and military expenditure. I mention this to show that great injustice has been done to those who are charged with the responsibility of controlling .the affairs of Government, and who have been blamed for the fact that Great Britain was not prepared for war from a military point. of view, when, as a matter of fact, every party in British politics was accustomed to appealing to the electors to rely solely on the Navy. No British politician could appear before the electors with any hope qf success and advocate a forward military policy. If there is any responsibility in this matter, the electors of Great Britain must bear it. What was the position here? Shortly after I became a member of the House, when the right honorable member for Parramatta had become Prime Minister and the Budget was under discussion, many honorable members expressed surprise at the rapid manner in which the expenditure on naval and military defence was growing; and the then Prime Minister accepted an amendment moved by the present Treasurer to reduce the vote by £1 as an indication of the feelings of ‘the Committee on this particular question. The only honorable member to take exception to that amendment was the then Leader of the Opposition, the Hon.: Andrew Fisher.
– That is not a fair way of stating the matter.
– There was no vote.
– There was no vote; but the only honorable member who uttered a protest against the reduction was the Honorable Andrew Fisher.
– I do not think that the right honorable gentleman uttered a protest against that reduction.
– I. do not? remember that honorable gentleman expressing himself in stronger terms than he did when this Parliament agreed to a reduction of £1 on the military vote, and the then
Prime Minister promised to reduce the amount in future applications to Parliament. That was just prior to the outbreak of the war. We did not seem to realize until within the last few years that our country needed a better system of defence. This necessity was not insisted on earlier because in this country we relied upon the strength of the British Navy. Even now it is our boast, when speaking from public platforms, that the foot of the invader has never been placed on our shores; but that is not because of anything we have done. The expense and responsibility of giving us that security rested upon the people of the United Kingdom, and therefore, once the Government of the United Kingdom decided that the interests of Great Britain were interlocked with those of France, Belgium, and the other Allies, we could adopt no other attitude than to say that all our resources as a country were behind the Mother Country in the action she had taken. It was only repaying her for the immunity from the possibility of foreign aggression she has given us in the past. Our future will rely on the success or non-success of the armies of the United Kingdom and her Allies. If they go down in this fight, we go down. If we desire to continue to enjoy immunity from the possibility of foreign aggression, it is essential for us that the United Kingdom and her Allies should come out of the war absolutely victorious. Speaking as a citizen of Australia, I believe that this young country of ours can play her part in the war nobly and well without the introduction of the system of conscription, and I trust that the present Government will adhere to their policy and obtain all the troops that may be required. Canada, nearer to the seat of war, has not declared for conscription. On the other hand, the Canadian Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition there, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, have said that there shall be no conscription in Canada, which, so far, has not done so well as Australia. Furthermore, rightly or wrongly - rightly, I believe - the British Government have exempted Ireland from the provisions of conscription; and I believe that our Government will be doing justice to themselves and the people of Australia by refraining from the introduction of conscription here. The fight for conscription in Australia is unfair. There are people who desire conscription because they have a sincere desire that Great Britain’ and her Allies shall be successful.; There are people who favour the voluntary system, because they have an equally sincere desire that the Allies shall be successful. There is another section of people who believe in neither the voluntary system nor conscription - the honorable member for Henty says, because they would prefer German rule. That accusation may be applied to men of German nationality living in our midst, but there are very few people in this country who do not ardently wish for the success of the Allies. How could they hope for the success of Germany ? Why should they, after living in this country for any length of time? I am sure there is no freer country on the face of God’s earth than that of which we have the honour to be citizens1. Therefore, those very few people who would like to see the downfall of the Allies are not persons of British birth or descent. I repeat that the people who are behind the voluntary system are just as loyal, just as sincere and honest in their desire that the Allies shall be successful as are the people who stand for conscription, but that is not the opinion of many people outside. One dare not say in the streets of Melbourne to-day that he is opposed to conscription without his loyalty being attacked, and without rendering himself liable to insult and assault. One cannot get from the municipalities a building in which to hold a meeting in opposition to conscription. There are tens of thousands of people in the Commonwealth to whom the principle of voluntaryism is very dear. Yet they dare not say one word for the continuance of the system without being insulted and assaulted. The quicker the civil authorities step in and stop such proceedings the better for the future good name of Australia, and for our rights and liberties. The honorable member for Batman has stood on the floor of the House and expressed his opinions. They do not meet with the approval of many men in the House or outside, but he holds those opinions, and even though we do not entirely agree with him, we must admit that he is worthy of respect for having courage as a public man to express them. There are other men who desire to voice their opinions outside Parliament in opposition to conscription; the law of the land does not deny them the right to do so, but force does. In those circumstances I say that the fight for and against conscription is not being conducted under fair and reasonable conditions. I have witnessed incidents which have made me feel ashamed that they should have occurred and been permitted to continue. Yet I see no person in authority who has the courage to stop them. The newspapers are encouraging and inciting men to perform those acts. I have heard returned soldiers say to men, “I have been to the front; why do you not go?” That is not a fair proposition. Those men enlisted of their own free will, they had the right to choose between going and remaining, and they ought to give the same right to their brother men. But they deny them that right.
– I do not think that is a fair statement.
– That may not be a popular statement to make, but if the honorable member does not admit the truth of it, it is because he is afraid to do so. Other men who will not send their own sons to the front are using pressure to send others. The honorable member for Henty said to-night that some employers are opposed to conscription. That is perfectly true. Why ? Because they have sons of their own, but as employers they discharge the son of another man in order to compel him to enlist.
– We say we will make the other man’s son go, too.
– I say that we should make no man’s son go by law. I am confident that the system in operation to-day can continue, and that when the war is over the people of Australia will have no reason to feel ashamed of the part their sons have played in this war under the voluntary system. Those are my sentiments. As a citizen I object to the system of recruiting that is in operation in this city. Many of our returned soldiers who have proved courageous and excellent fighters have been asked to go on the platform and address large assemblages.
– A good many of them asked to be allowed to do so.
– Yes; I know that many of them volunteered for the work. They start out to make an appeal to the young men standing around them. Then their enthusiasm carries them away, and the majority of them finish up by insulting ihe crowds about them. In their ardor they are doing the voluntary system an injury. The real recruiting which has made the system such a success to date is not in Collins-street. It is being done on the waterside amongst the wharf labourers, in foundries, in the mines, and in the factories. One man enlists, and half-a-dozen follow his example. In Port Melbourne and South’ Melbournethere are bands of young fellows, sometimes called “pushes,” who, having no social clubs to which they can go after their daily toil, meet at some corner or reserve. Jack and Tom leave the “ push “ and volunteer. A day or a week laterBill and Harry follow them, and so on.. I know that in some of the foundries nomen left to volunteer for a long period. Suddenly one man joined the Forces, and within a few days half a dozen had left the same shop. That is the way in which the recruiting system is actually effective. The majority of the work done in ‘the heart of the city is a labour in vain. Hundreds of the men in the city crowds are physically unfit to go to the front, or are too old, and after listening to the soldiers they leave the gatherings feeling very hurt by the remarks which have been made. The military authorities would do justice to themselves, to the soldiers, and to the cause they are advocating, by immediately prohibiting the holding of further recruiting meetings in the streets of Melbourne. There is another phase of the recruiting system. I regret to introduce the subject, but when I think of conscription my mind reverts to the Tramway strike in Brisbane and to the big strike in New Zealand four or five years ago. A system of conscription was immediately brought into operation by the powers that be, both in the case of the waterside workers’ strike in New Zealand and the tramway strike in Brisbane, and certain things occurred which I, for one, deeply regretted. The point is, that this action was taken in each case against the industrial workers right in the metropolitan areas, and I have heard the remark made that these men, engaged as militant unionists, are tainted with disloyalty. But what is the fact ? What has been the result on the first occasion in the history of our country that an appeal has been made to their loyalty and patriotism ? The men called out against the workers in the case of these strikes were! from the way-back country; but which class has proved the most ready to respond to the present calif The recruits have come from the very heart of the militant organized workers of Australia, and if other sections right out back had been as ready and’ as liberal in their response there would have been absolutely no necessity whatever to talk of conscription now.
– In South Australia the way-back districts have supplied three men to one in the metropolitan area.
– It is so in Queensland.
– And it is so in New South Wales, where farms are’ depleted, while the stadiums in the city are full.
– I make the assertion, and I back it up with facts. In Victoria, where have the volunteers come from? In the metropolitan area the appeal meets with response, and also in the country towns. Men are obtained in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and other capital cities, and also, as I Bay, in the country’ towns. The miners, wood-cutters, railway men, and’ others, who work in and around towns, have come forward, but the farmers proper and farmers’ sons in the real rural districts are conspicuous by their absence.
– That is an absolute libel 1
– I could take the honorable member for Fawkner to districts in Victoria where not one man is left.
– The “honorable member for Fawkner knows only Victoria.
– Order 1
– The honorable member for Fawkner is making a statement that he ought to know is incorrect.
– He ought to be ashamed to make iti
– Every honorable member has a right to be heard in silence, and I ask honorable members to assist the Chair, in order that the debate may be conducted properly.
– I do not speak on my own authority, but express the opinion of people - not members of my party or members of unions - who went out recruiting. A congress of organized labour held in this city has declared against conscription, not because the workers are disloyal, but because organized labour is of opinion that, as the workers have already responded, so they will go on re sponding to the end of the war. Organized labour believes in the voluntary” system, and will give the Government every possible assistance in making it -a success.
– Why not apply the voluntary system to unionism !
– The honorable member has had a good deal to say in the past with regard to trade unions and men connected with them, but it is well for both him and myself, who remain here, that there are such men to respond to the call. I hope that he will have less of a questionable nature to say against them in the future than he has had in the past. I am proud of the part that unionists have taken in connexion with this war. I am perfectly satisfied that every appeal made to them by the Government in the future will be responded to just rb liberally as have past appeals. I trust that we shall not break away from the voluntary system and introduce a system of conscrip- tion. I hope that there will he a speedy termination of the present European conflict, and that that termination will signalize the triumph of the Allied forces. Should victory not attend our efforts, I am prepared to recognise that our freedom from the possibility of aggression in the future will not be as secure as it lias been. Should we go down in the present struggle our future safety will depend upon the strength of the Imperial Navy. ‘ If that Navy should disappear our protection by the United Kingdom will be practically withdrawn, and there will be thrown upon the people of Australia the responsibility for defending their own country. I am’ satisfied that should that time arrive every citizen of the Commonwealth will be just as ready to exhibit the same courage and valour in defending our territory as have been exhibited by the citizens of France and Germany to whom reference was made to-night by the honorable member for Henty. In the past we have not made the necessary defence preparations, but doubtless we shall endeavour to perfect our preparations in the near future, because of our experience in this war. “When we have done so we shall be able to do all that is required of us. The compulsory system may then come into operation. But our part in the present war, our fullest obligations oan be met, and the debt we owe to the United Kingdom, both in blood and money, discharged by the voluntary systemwhichis at present operative.Recognising this, I shall not record a vote in favour of conscription.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Tudor) read a first time.
House adjourned at 10.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 May 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19160511_reps_6_79/>.